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Improving translational capabilities in dementia is a key healthcare challenge highlighted in the government’s Life Sciences Vision, which sets out how the UK can build on its research and innovation response to COVID-19.

The vision, co-developed by the government, the NHS and the life sciences sector, is to apply the combined drive and ingenuity of researchers, healthcare professionals and business to tackle fundamental healthcare problems including ageing, mental health, obesity and cancer. 

Prof Masud Husain is the co-lead of Dementia Research Oxford, which exemplifies the approach to translational science set out in the Life Sciences Vision.  The group, which includes researchers, clinicians and industry partners, aims to bridge the gap between basic, clinical and population research.  Together, they are developing brain, blood and behavioural biomarkers with which they can track the incidence and prevalence of dementia in the general population, identify who is most at risk, and measure the efficacy of new and existing treatments.

“Oxford University’s work with the government’s Vaccine Taskforce has shown what can be achieved by collaboration between basic, clinical and population researchers,” says Masud, who spoke about his work to an all-party group of MPs at the British Neuroscience Association’s Brain Gain event. 

“At WIN, we are using brain imaging to uncover some of the mechanisms of brain ageing and neurodegeneration,” he says. “Some people can be resilient to these changes.  Neuroscientists working in population health have shown us that lifestyle factors play a part, but the really important question is why some brains are more resilient than others - and we now have the tools to start finding answers.”