Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) affects over 100,000 people in the UK, however it is difficult to recognise in clinical practice, with many cases currently undetected. It can also be difficult to distinguish DLB from Alzheimer’s disease. Previous research studies have found that nerve damage can be detected in the hearts of people with DLB, with no such damage observed in people with Alzheimer’s disease. The MIDAS study, recently added to Join Dementia Research, will be using a heart scanning technique to determine whether the functioning of the nerves that supply the heart in people with DLB differ from their functioning in people with Alzheimer’s disease. In investigating if there is a difference, the research team hope this will aid diagnosis of DLB.

Dr Joseph Kane is part of the research team; he tells us more about the study. 

Dr Joseph Kane

Dr Joseph Kane

What are the main aims of the MIDAS study?

MIDAS aims to explore the use of heart scans to detect differences between Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and Alzheimer’s disease. DLB affects functions and organs throughout the body, including the nerves that supply the heart. We aim to better understand if we can use scans to detect these heart changes, helping us to make diagnoses earlier, and with greater accuracy. We also want to work out if these scans pick up the one in four people DLB that current brain scans fail to detect.

What does it involve for a participant?

Participants attend five appointments altogether, but two appointments can be conducted in the participant’s home, if they would prefer.

The first appointment involves some memory and brain testing, and some questions for the participant’s carer. The second appointment involves a visit to the Centre for Ageing & Vitality at Newcastle University for a blood test, and some more questions about the participant’s symptoms and their general health.

Two appointments are for scans at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary; one scan of the brain, and one of the heart. These take place on separate days and we arrange for transportation.

Although the scanner does come quite close to the patient’s head or chest, the machine used hasn’t got a tunnel like those used in other scans. Carers are very welcome to sit with the participant during the scan.

Finally, a fifth appointment takes place around one year after the initial visit. During this appointment we repeat the memory tests and the carer questionnaires.

How long is the study for?

From start to finish, the study lasts one year, but most of the appointments will be in the first one to two months.

What do you hope the outcomes of the study will be?

We hope that we’ll be able to see clear differences between the results of heart scans taken with DLB participants compared to those taken with AD participants. We hope to show that heart scanning be more effective at picking up DLB than some of the brain scans currently in use.

Where is the study based?

The study is based in Newcastle upon Tyne, but we welcome participants from throughout the North-East, and we’re happy to provide transport to the scans and other appointments that make up the study. Newcastle University is one of the world’s leading centres for dementia research, and we’re very proud to continue its work through MIDAS.

Why are you interested in dementia research?

I’ve always been fascinated by the way that dementia affects every patient in a completely different way, and how patients, carers and professionals find ways to help address these individual problems. I find DLB particularly interesting, as it is a disorder that can affect not only the brain, but also a wide range of other areas and functions throughout the body. It is DLB’s impact on the heart that led us to set up MIDAS.

The other thing that I love about research is the people I get to meet. I have been bowled over by the generosity, strength and enthusiasm of the participants and carers who have volunteered for our studies. Thanks to them, my colleagues and I learn a little bit more about dementia every day and it’s a privilege to work with them to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.

two-people-discussing-V02You can see if you are eligible for this study – and others around the nation by logging into your Join Dementia Research account.
Still not registered with Join Dementia Research? Why not sign up today?