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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 develop potential treatment for memory loss

    The study findings could have big implications on those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's

    Memory loss is a condition that affects millions of people around the world, including those suffering from diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. However, despite a wealth of research conducted on the subject, the medical community is constantly finding new explanations to explain the disorder.

    One of the latest comes from Dr. Carlos Saura at the Institut de Neurociències (Inc) in Barcelona. He believes that the loss of associative memory is the key factor in broader memory loss, and he has tracked it to a molecular mechanism that takes place in the hippocampus region of the brain.

    In basic terms, Saura believes that a certain brain protein, called CRTC1, is disrupted in the brains of people with neurodegenerative disorders. This is important, he explains, because CRTC1 is responsible for regulating neuron function that allows for associative memories to be stored. Restoring CRTC1 function, he says, may reverse memory loss.

    "The relevance of this discovery is that activation of specific neurons of the hippocampus reverses memory loss even at late stages of neurodegeneration," said Saura.

    Potential therapeutic target

    Associative memory is important for remembering much of the information that our brains process. It involves remembering people, situations and places for the long-term. However, previous research has shown that it is one of the first cognitive abilities to falter in patients who develop Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

    Saura’s study used a gene therapy approach on mice models that had symptoms of neurodegeneration. Researchers inserted copies of CRTC1 into the hippocampus region of models’ brains and observed whether they could remember a negative experience.

    Mice who were treated with the therapy were able to remember the negative experience and changed their behavior to avoid it, while mice who weren’t treated acted as they normally would. The findings give hope of possible therapeutic approaches to treating memory loss in the future.

    "These results are exciting since provide strong support for potential translational applications in the clinic because this molecular mechanism could be a new target to reverse memory decline in dementia," Saura concluded.

    The full study has been published in Biological Psychiatry.

    Memory loss is a condition that affects millions of people around the world, including those suffering from diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. However...

    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...

    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...

    Common prostate cancer treatment may double dementia risk

    Researchers warn reducing testosterone can have negative side effects

    Since the 1940s, one of the most common ways doctors treat prostate cancer is with something called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). It's currently used to treat an estimated 500,000 men in the United States by reducing their testosterone levels.

    While it has been shown to be effective at countering prostate cancer, researchers are increasingly worried about some of its potential side effects. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania suggests ADT can double a man's risk of developing Alzheimer's or other dementia.

    The researchers make clear they have not come up with conclusive proof that ADT increases dementia risks, but they say their analysis of medical records – comparing patients who received ADT with those who did not – “strongly supports” that conclusion.

    “This is not an academic question anymore; this is really a clinical question that needs to be answered,” said lead author Dr. Kevin T. Nead.

    Two studies, same results

    He points to two research papers – the first released late last year – that he says show very similar outcomes and magnitude of risk. At the very least, he says the possibility needs more study.

    The Penn researchers are not alone in their suspicions. Research in recent years also has linked low testosterone to cognitive decline, finding that men with Alzheimer’s tend to have lower testosterone levels, compared to men of the same age who don’t have the disease.

    Androgens are male hormones and doctors have known for a long time that they play a major role in stimulating prostate cell growth. That's why a major prostate cancer treatment reduces androgen production, in an effort to shrink prostate tumors.

    The American Cancer Society says ADT is normally used in prostate cancer patients who are not good candidates for surgery or radiation treatments. Sometimes it is used if the patient has been treated for surgery or radiation, but the cancer returns.

    But the research team warns that reducing androgen activity too much can negative consequences, including high blood pressure and diabetes. It has only been recently that researchers have included dementia in the list of side-effects.

    The researchers don't rule out other possible reasons that men undergoing ADT treatments tend to have a higher dementia risk, but say there needs to be additional study to reach a firm conclusion.

    Since the 1940s, one of the most common ways doctors treat prostate cancer is with something called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). It's currently used...

    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...

    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...