Dementia already affects hundreds of thousands of people in Australia, and it’s only going to get worse if a medical miracle is not forthcoming.

The term relates to brain diseases, including Alzheimers, that impact a person’s ability to think and recall memories.

Dementia Australia estimates 459,000 people have the disease. It also predicts that without a medical breakthrough the number of Australians with dementia will surpass 1 million by 2058.

Globally, there are 50 million sufferers and 10 million new cases annually according to the World Health Organisation.

But there are a few ASX small caps either tackling the disease head on or at least trying to lessen the pain for sufferers, their carers and families.


Identifying pain

While not specifically dementia-focused, PainChek (ASX:PCK) uses facial recognition to assess levels of pain in people who cannot vocalise their suffering.

At later stages of dementia people may not be able to talk.

Although the stock is well off its all time high of 36c, it is still more than triple what it was 12 months ago. Its run began with a $5m funding deal from the federal government in April last year.


Tackling the disease head on

There are only two small caps developing anti-dementia drugs. The first of these is Actinogen (ASX:ACW), which is specifically targeting the stress hormone cortisol that has been linked with the development and progression of Alzheimers (one variant of dementia).

A 20mg dose of its drug was found to provide statistically significant cognitive improvement.

The key to its future lies in further human studies, which hinge on the outcome of pre-clinical long-term toxicology studies currently underway.

The second dementia fighting stock is Neuroscientific Biopharmaceuticals (ASX:NSB)Its drug uses a therapeutic peptide that stimulates neuron regeneration.

In December it announced the results of a preclinical study of the drug in mice that showed it could regulate choline metabolites in diseased brains, reversing pathological patterns to a normal state.

Neuroscientific also recently completed a pre-clinical study using the drug for the treatment of glaucoma in pigs. The dosing stage is complete and the company expects the results this quarter.

Finally, Cogstate (ASX:CGS) is developing a program that monitors and assesses brain health.

Cogstate’s technology aims to optimise brain health assessments to help new medicine development and improve clinical insights.

READ MORE: Brain health is complicated, but these ASX small caps are trying to keep it in shape