Dr Eugene O’Hare hopes his research may help provide a treatment for a disease which touches the lives of millions of people throughout the world – Alzheimer’s disease.
He collaborates with drug development companies focused on discovering new compounds for the treatment of dementia. Eugene is a Senior Lecturer at Queen’s School of Psychology, which he joined after many years working in the United States. Eugene points out that one of the difficulties with dementia, and especially with Alzheimer’s disease, is that by the time people are diagnosed it is difficult to carry out any kind of epidemiological studies to investigate factors influencing the onset of the disease. Also, while there is still no cure, we know much more about these diseases now than ever before, although we have yet to determine the root cause. Because of this, Eugene has developed models of dementia that can be used to in the identification and evaluation of drugs aimed at halting its progress. This makes it possible for drug development companies to modify a chemical, adjust the molecular structure, and test bioavailability, etc.
At the moment there are several promising compounds in pre-clinical trials. There are five drugs currently approved for use in Alzheimer’s disease, these work for a short time in some people to alleviate some of the symptoms but they do not halt the disease and they don’t reverse the damage that has already been done. The aim is toward the development of a drug that will halt the progression of the disease and maybe even improve the symptoms to pre-diagnosis levels. This would mean being able to reduce the levels of clinical and social management.
The work has resulted in collaboration with a specialised electrophysiology company which provides services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and the combination of pre-clinical modelling and advanced electrophysiological analysis has proven to be a powerful tool for the development of new drugs.