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Alzheimer's Risks and Treatment

Exercise could help protect against Alzheimer's

Researchers suggest that staying active can help improve memory

Millions of people across the country are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and experts have yet to find a cure. However, researchers continue to conduct experiments in an effort to help patients live as comfortably as possible.

Recently, researchers from Columbia University Irving Medical Center found that exercise could help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Exercising releases the hormone irisin, which has been linked to neuron growth in the part ...

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    Researchers identify brain protein as potential target for Alzheimer's research

    They believe that the disease may occur partly due to the breakdown of an important brain system

    Recently, researchers began developing a potential therapy for concussions, using an FDA-approved drug that helps reduce the harmful effects of swelling. Specifically, they found that the expression of a certain membrane protein called aquaporin-4 increased dramatically after a head injury and caused damage.

    While work on that project continues, other experts believe that aquaporin-4 may be a prime target for Alzheimer’s research. A study conducted by researchers from Oregon Health & Science University has revealed a connection between the protein and possible prevention of the brain disease. While it may not materialize into a lasting cure, the researchers believe that their work could contribute to future therapies and prevention strategies.

    "It suggests that aquaporin-4 might be a useful target in preventing and treating Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Jeffrey Iliff, senior author of the study. "However, we aren't under any illusion that if we could just fix this one thing, then we'd be able to cure Alzheimer's Disease."

    System breakdown

    In a broad sense, Alzheimer’s isn’t a disease that happens all at once – it takes time and is much more progressive. There is currently no cure for it, but several therapies have been developed that may be effective in slowing it down; the researchers believe that aquaporin-4 could provide another.

    Aquaporin-4’s functions as part of the brain's glymphatic system. Under certain conditions, it is the protein that allows cerebral-spinal fluid to enter the brain and wash away other proteins like amyloid and tau – the build up of which are main drivers of Alzheimer’s.

    The researchers believe that when the system regulating aquaporin-4 breaks down, amyloid and tau are allowed to build up unchecked, leading to nerve damage. They tested this theory by analyzing three groups of 79 donated brains – people younger than 60 with a history of Alzheimer’s, people younger than 60 without a history of any neurological disease, and people over 60 without Alzheimer’s.

    They found that aquaporin-4 levels were well organized and ordered in the brains of people without Alzheimer’s or a history of neurological disease, but older brains with Alzheimer’s had very disorganized aquaporin-4 levels. The researchers posit that Alzheimer’s may have developed in these brains due to decreased function to clear away harmful proteins.

    Last year, the researchers were given a $1.4 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to continue their research and develop new imaging techniques that could capture brain processes as they happened. The team’s full study has been published in JAMA Neurology

    Recently, researchers began developing a potential therapy for concussions, using an FDA-approved drug that helps reduce the harmful effects of swelling. S...
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    Tests on promising Alzheimer's drug end in disappointment

    Ely Lilly will not seek FDA approval for solanezumab

    There have been many promising breakthroughs in the field of Alzheimer's disease research, giving hope to millions at risk of the devastating disease.

    The flip side of that, of course, is when these hopeful promises just don't pan out. So it was with great disappointment that pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced that its promising new drug solanezumab “did not meet the primary endpoint” in it's final, phase 3 testing. The company said it would not seek Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the drug.

    Lilly said patients in the trial who were treated with solanezumab did not experience a statistically significant slowing in cognitive decline compared to patients treated with placebo. It dashed the hope raised by previous research.

    Solanezumab is a mono-clonal antibody targeting excess amyloid in the brain. It was designed for patients considered to be at risk of Alzheimer's but who had not displayed symptoms of the disease.

    Slowing memory loss by 10 years

    Researchers were hopeful that doctors might eventually use positron emission tomography (PET scans) to locate beta amyloid as it begins to form plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease 10 to 20 years before they show any symptoms of the disease.

    The drug would then be administered, removing the harmful protein from the brain before it could begin to build up. Researchers were hopeful it might slow memory loss by at least 10 years.

    "The results of the solanezumab EXPEDITION3 trial were not what we had hoped for and we are disappointed for the millions of people waiting for a potential disease-modifying treatment for Alzheimer's disease," said John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D., chairman, president and CEO of Eli Lilly, in a written statement. "We will evaluate the impact of these results on the development plans for solanezumab and our other Alzheimer's pipeline assets."

    Lechleiter also issued a statement to the Alzheimer's community in the video below, vowing his company would continue pursuing effective treatments.

    Lilly said it would present further findings from the study at the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer's Disease meeting in early December.

    There have been many promising breakthroughs in the field of Alzheimer's disease research, giving hope to millions at risk of the devastating disease.T...
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    Researchers work towards blood test to check for Alzheimer's disease

    Having such a test could help with early detection and prevention efforts

    New research conducted at Cardiff University could allow for earlier detection of Alzheimer’s disease, a crucial step towards mitigating the damaging effects that it has on people later in life.

    Using nearly 300 participants, researchers used blood tests to distinguish certain biomarkers which could predict whether or not someone would develop the disease in the near future.

    “Our research proves that it is possible to predict whether or not an individual with mild memory problems is likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the next few years,” said Paul Morgan, Director of Cardiff University’s Systems Immunity Research Institute.  

    “We hope to build on this in order to develop a simple blood test that can predict the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease in older people with mild, and possibly innocent, memory impairment.”

    Influential findings

    In order to distinguish the biomarkers, Morgan and his colleagues took blood samples from participants who had mild memory problems and analyzed them for protein content. After a year, the researchers re-assessed each participant.

    They found that nearly a quarter of all participants went on to develop Alzheimer’s. Interestingly, those who went on to develop the disease had three proteins in their blood that differed dramatically at the initial screening from those who remained healthy. This evidence could provide some insight into how these immune system proteins contribute to inflammation and Alzheimer’s as a whole.

    Morgan believes that these findings could greatly influence how health officials handle Alzheimer’s where he lives in the United Kingdom.

    “Alzheimer’s disease affects around 520,000 people in the UK and this number is continually growing as the population ages. As such it is important that we find new ways to diagnose the disease early, giving us a chance to investigate and instigate new treatments before irreversible damage is done,” he said.

    The full study has been published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

    New research conducted at Cardiff University could allow for earlier detection of Alzheimer’s disease, a crucial step towards mitigating the damaging effec...
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    A diet to keep your memory sharp

    Australian researchers say the Mediterranean diet slows cognitive decline

    Most of use go on a diet to lose weight or to improve our physical condition. But researchers in Australia have concluded that the Mediterranean diet is not only good for you physically, but mentally as well.

    Writing in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, lead author Roy Hardman from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne and his colleagues say the diet appears to slow cognitive decline.

    The Mediterranean diet includes a lot of plant foods, like leafy greens, fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals, beans, seeds, nuts, and legumes. There is less dairy and red meat, and olive oil is the preferred source of fat.

    "The most surprising result was that the positive effects were found in countries around the whole world,” Hardman said. “So regardless of being located outside of what is considered the Mediterranean region, the positive cognitive effects of a higher adherence to a MedDiet were similar in all evaluated papers."

    Heart healthy too

    For the most part, doctors recommend the Mediterranean diet for its positive effects on the heart.

    “Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease,” the Mayo Clinic reports on its website. “The diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the "bad" cholesterol that's more likely to build up deposits in your arteries.”

    And in line with this latest research from Australia, the Mayo Clinic staff notes that the Mediterranean diet has also been associated with a lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease.

    The Australian study found the diet improves attention, memory and use of language. In terms of memory, it found notable improves in delayed recognition, working memory, and executive function.

    What is it about the Mediterranean diet?

    The question is why. What is it about the Mediterranean diet that supports better cognitive function? The authors suggest several things, including a reduction in inflammation, improved vitamin and mineral imbalances, maintaining a healthy weight, and improving polyphenols in the blood.

    If you are interested in trying the Mediterranean diet, it is always advisable to discuss any changes in eating patterns with your doctor. Assuming he or she agrees it might be beneficial for you, here are some Mediterranean diet recipes to get you started.

    Most of use go on a diet to lose weight or to improve our physical condition. But researchers in Australia have concluded that the Mediterranean diet is no...
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    Scientists explain why Alzheimer's disease always gets worse

    The damaging protein hops from neuron to neuron, researchers say

    Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have identified a way they say Alzheimer's disease can spread through the brain.

    Their study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, says the toxic protein tau jumps from one neuron to another. They say their discovery helps explain why just one area of the brain is affected when Alzheimer's begins, but that much of the brain is damaged in the disease's later stages.

    They say it also explains why Alzheimer's always gets progressively worse, never better. Significantly, however, that could change.

    “By learning how tau spreads, we may be able to stop it from jumping from neuron to neuron,” said Karen Duff, professor in the department of pathology and cell biology.

    Limiting the damage

    If doctors were successful in doing so, she says they might be able to stop or limit the progression of the disease.

    This isn't the first time researchers have suggested that Alzheimer’s can spread through the brain. The idea first gained traction among medical scientists earlier in the decade when it was found tau moved from neuron to neuron through the brains of mice.

    The latest study found that tau travels within the brain, moving from neuron to neuron. That allows it to affect other parts of the brain. Duff says that has important clinical implications.

    Important implications

    “When tau is released into the extracellular space, it would be much easier to target the protein with therapeutic agents, such as antibodies, than if it had remained in the neuron,” she said.

    The new study is just the latest in an area that is receiving intense focus as the large Baby Boom generation enters old age. Health policymakers are concerned about the huge toll on the healthcare system if Alzheimer's cases multiply as predicted.

    In one of the most promising recent developments, scientists at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and UCLA found they could reverse memory loss.

    It was an extremely small study, but the researchers say they are excited because it could hold significant potential. The therapy uses existing drugs, along with a strict program of dietary changes, brain stimulation, physical exercise, and sleep optimization.

    Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have identified a way they say Alzheimer's disease can spread through the brain.Their study, publishe...
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    Study finds Alzheimer’s could be diagnosed much earlier

    Genetic markers appear to predict who will get the disease later in life

    Alzheimer’s disease strikes older adults, but increasingly, doctors think there are ways to identify young people who will be at risk.

    The latest research is published in the online issue of the journal Neurology, and it reveals a genetic risk score that may identify those at risk of the cognitive illness long before any symptoms appear.

    Elizabeth C. Mormino, PhD, with Massachusetts General Hospital in Charlestown, Mass., says there is an early stage of the disease that can last a decade or more without the appearance of symptoms.

    “Given that current clinical trials are testing whether therapies can slow memory and thinking decline among people at risk for the disease, it is critical to understand the influence of risk factors before symptoms are present,” Mormino said.

    The study

    The study looked at people with dementia and those without it, assigning each a numeric score based on the presence of high risk genes. The participants were examined for common Alzheimer’s markers, including a decline in memory and thinking skills, clinical progression of the disease, and the volume of the hippocampus, which is the memory center of the brain.

    The research team next looked at any links between the risk score and hippocampus size in 1,322 healthy, younger participants between the ages of 18 and 35.

    Results

    Even among older people who had no dementia – but who had a higher genetic risk – there was a stronger likelihood of worse memory and smaller hippocampus at the start of the study.

    Over the three years of the study, a higher genetic risk score was also associated with greater longitudinal memory and executive function decline and clinical progression of the disease.

    The risk score was also linked to overall disease progression, with 15 of 194 participants who were cognitively normal at the start of the study developing mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. Of the 332 subjects with mild cognitive impairment at the start of the study, 143 developed Alzheimer’s disease after three years.

    Mormino concedes it was a small study, but she says further research could help doctors better identify people at high risk of dementia at a much earlier age and begin preventive treatments sooner.

    Alzheimer’s disease strikes older adults, but increasingly, doctors think there are ways to identify young people who will be at risk.The latest resear...
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    Two proteins may be responsible for dementia in Alzheimer's patients

    The study is the first two definitively link both proteins to cognitive decline

    Researchers are still working hard when it comes to understanding how Alzheimer’s disease works, and that commitment may be beginning to pay off. A study conducted at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute may have uncovered the driving force behind the disease’s signature symptom – the development of dementia.

    For a while now, scientists have suspected that dementia developed in Alzheimer’s patients because of the presence of two proteins, called amyloid and tau, respectively. However, they were uncertain about which protein, if either, was the driving force behind the dementia symptom. It turns out that it may be both.

    A study has found that both amyloid and tau work in tandem to create toxic effects that lead to brain damage. It is the first piece of definitive evidence that connects the two proteins to cognitive damage sustained by otherwise cognitively intact individuals.

    Challenging previous theories

    While the build-up of amyloid and tau proteins can be dangerous on their own, the researchers found that their ability to cause harm was increased when they were together.

    “We specifically found that both proteins mutually enhance their individual toxic effects and cause a brain dysfunction considered to be a signature of [Alzheimer’s disease]. This finding challenges previous polarized theories that a single protein abnormality was the major driving force of disease progression,” said Dr. Pedro Rosa-Neto, lead scientist of the study.

    The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing 120 cognitively intact individuals over a two-year period. Participants had their amyloid and tau levels monitored for the duration of the study. Based on the changing levels that the researchers observed, they were able to see how the proteins reacted with each other and then predicted which participants were the most likely to suffer brain damage as a result of Alzheimer’s disease.

    New therapies

    The researchers believe that their discovery may help in the development of new, more effective therapeutic approaches that target both proteins in the brain.

    “Until now, therapeutic clinical trials have targeted a single pathological process. Our result paves the way for new therapeutic strategies for prevention or stabilization of [Alzheimer’s disease]. For example, combination therapies should be used simultaneously against both amyloid and tau protein accumulation,” said Dr. Tharick A. Pascoal, lead author of the study.

    The full study has been published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

    Researchers are still working hard when it comes to understanding how Alzheimer’s disease works, and that commitment may be beginning to pay off. A study c...
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