October marks Lewy body dementia awareness month. The condition – sometimes called dementia with Lewy bodies – is one of the most common forms of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, yet surprisingly little is known about it.

When someone develops this type of dementia, protein deposits called Lewy bodies develop in the brain regions involved in thinking, memory and movement.

Lewy body in a neuron affected by Parkinson’s disease

Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease share similar symptoms including visual hallucinations; movement disorders such as slowed movement, tremor or a shuffling walk; cognitive problems and sleep difficulties.

We need to find out more about the indicators of the disease and see if existing medications can be repurposed to treat it.

October is an opportune time to highlight some of the Lewy body dementia studies that are currently live on Join Dementia Research:

Investigating the repurposing of the asthma drug Clenbuterol for the treatment of neurodegenerative brain disorders (dementia with Lewy bodies arm)

This study is looking at repurposing an asthma drug, known as Clenbuterol, for people with Lewy body dementia.

There are two phases to this study and there will be a break of 14 days between the two. Participants will be given the drug in one of the two treatment periods, but will not know whether they are receiving the drug on the first or second visit.

The study team is initially recruiting people aged 50-80 with a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia, in Barnsley, Blackpool and Manchester. The study is being carried out by MAC Clinical Research and is sponsored by Curasen Inc. Participants will be reimbursed for their time and commitment, as well as reasonable travel and expenses. Other arms of this study are looking at repurposing the same drug for people with Parkinson’s disease dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment.

Circulating ghrelin as a biomarker for dementias 

Scientist pipetting blood into a test tube

The presence of ghrelin – a gut hormone, sometimes called the ‘hunger hormone’- in the blood may be an indicator of dementia. Altered levels may be an indication that dementia is progressing. This study is looking to see if measuring ghrelin in the blood could become a tool for diagnosis.

The study involves two visits; at the first appointment, participants will be able to ask about the study and if they decide to take part, they will complete a couple of questionnaires. At the second visit, participants will give blood samples having fasted the night before and will then consume a high calorie drink before giving blood again. 

This study is being led by Swansea University and the research team is recruiting people over the age of 60 with either Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s disease dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease. They are also looking for volunteers without any signs of dementia, and all participants need to based in either South Wales or Newcastle.

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You might also like to read about some of our volunteers who have taken part in research.