1. ITV Report

Could brain hormone reduce symptoms of dementia?

Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Scientists at the University of Cambridge are starting a pilot trial to investigate whether a hormone produced naturally in the brain could help reduce the symptoms of a certain type of dementia. Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) can cause distressing symptoms, like a loss of empathy and inappropriate behaviour. It is a relatively uncommon form of the condition, but still affects about 16,000 people in the UK.

Alzheimer's Research UK, based in Great Abington near Cambridge, has awarded nearly £30,000 to fund the new trials, which will recruit people who carry a gene known to cause a genetic mutation, which can then lead to FTD.

"Controlled trials like this one are crucial in order to be sure whether a treatment holds potential benefits, and we look forward to seeing the results in due course. With no treatments currently available for frontotemporal dementia, there's an urgent need for research into the condition."

– Dr Simon Ridley - Alzheimer's Research UK

Dr Michael Hornberger and his team at the University of Cambridge plan to investigate the effects of the hormone oxytocin - sometimes known as the 'bonding' hormone - which is produced naturally in the brain, and has been linked to social bonding and feelings of empathy. Their aim is to find out if this hormone can increase empathy and social awareness in people with FTD, helping to combat their challenging behavioural symptoms. If the initial results are successful, the team plan to carry out wider trials in the future.

"The symptoms of frontotemporal dementia can be hugely challenging, and a treatment to reduce some of these symptoms could have an enormous impact on quality of life, both for people with the disease and their carers. Our study is a small, early-stage trial, which we hope will lead to much larger studies, and until those are completed we don't recommend people use oxytocin without talking to a doctor."

– Dr Michael Hornberger - The University of Cambridge