Which will come first, cure or prevention? It would be great to find a cure, but if there is an effective way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, that would be even better. A cure would become superfluous.
The recent failures and semi-successes of “plaque busting” drugs seems to be having some effect on what aspects of Alzheimer’s disease are being studied. I am seeing more research into other possible causative mechanisms for Alzheimer’s disease as well as some potential treatments that are not inspired by the amyloid hypothesis.
It could just be coincidence.
One of this weeks studies explores a system that keeps cells free of waste material. The connection between this system and Alzheimer’s is very like the link between Alzheimer’s symptoms and microglia we have reported on in previous weeks.
I am also reading more about biomarkers, ways that we can more easily diagnose Alzheimer’s, and ways that we can diagnose it earlier. This is important. The sooner we diagnose the disease, the sooner we can start treatment. If and when we do find a way to stop it, and we stop it very early on, that is, essentially, a cure. Stopping it after there has been a significant amount of brain damage is only a minor victory.
August 23, 2018 | Medical News Today | Maria Cohut
The endolysosomal system is responsible for ridding the body of waste material from cells. Like so many of our biological functions, this system becomes less efficient as we get older.
Alzheimer’s is related to age. The plaques and tangles that are hallmarks of the disease are cellular waste that remains in the brain. Scientists at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute found a likely connection between this faltering waste removal system and AD.
Dr. Tim Sargeant, one of the papers authors said of the findings; “This research is an important step in understanding how dysfunction in the brain’s recycling machinery may cause Alzheimer’s disease, and may be the key to unlocking new drug targets, or treatment strategies.”
The original study was reported in the journal Brain. (Abstract)
August 22, 2018 | Science Daily | University of Texas
Cellular senescence is a survival mechanism that allows certain stressed cells to survive, but these cells then act abnormally. They become toxic, killing surrounding cells. This stress is involved with cancer.
Researchers at UT Health San Antonio found that these senescent cells are also associated with the tau tangles found in Alzheimer’s brains. Treating old mice with a drug combination that included a chemotherapy drug used to treat leukemia, this team of investigators found a marked decrease in tau tangles.
Team leader, Dr. Miranda Orr said of their research, “After clearing the senescent cells, we saw improvements in brain structure and function… The treatment seems to have stopped the disease in its tracks.”
Read a summary of this study.
Biomarkers and early diagnosis
A little late to the party, the headline on a recent article in the The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reads, “Alzheimer’s starts years before symptoms show”. It is good to remind us, though, of the importance of early diagnosis, and the importance of finding accurate, non-invasive diagnostic tools. I found two related reports this week.
August 23, 2018 | JAMA | Eye exam Alzheimer’s diagnosis
Conclusions and Relevance This study suggests that cognitively healthy individuals with preclinical AD have retinal microvascular abnormalities in addition to architectural alterations and that these changes occur at earlier stages of AD than has previously been demonstrated. Longitudinal studies in larger cohorts are needed to determine whether this finding has value in identifying preclinical AD.
August 23, 2018 | Science Daily | Autobiographical memory tested for early Alzheimer’s detection
Summary: A psychologist found that carriers of a gene variant that increases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease have greater difficulty describing detailed memories of past events. The goal of his research is to help detect Alzheimer’s disease-related brain changes before they begin to have an obvious effect on cognition and memory.
Two news reports this week confirm and reinforce what we have always known. Music and art are a couple of the best alternative therapies for us all.
August 18, 2018 | New Hampshire Union Leader | Art as Therapy
Three days a month at an adult day center in Manchester, NH, 10 to 12 Alzheimer’s students enjoy the process of artistic creation.
The Currier Museum has tracked patient responses since the program’s inception in 2015 and found that studio art sessions increase social engagement, all but eliminate disruptive or anxious behaviors during art-making and prompt more conversations at home.
August 26, 2018 | CBC News | Music as Therapy
A Victoria choir began in January is called Voices in Motion It is specifically for people with dementia and their family caregivers. Dr. Debra Sheets, researcher for the choir, is reporting improved mood and social interaction, but also memory enhancement. Music “taps into a part of your brain that’s often not touched as much by dementia,” she said.
AUG 26, 2018 | The Advocate
Mindfulness is a new word for a millennia old concept; meditation. Meditation is one of the most effective ways of relaxing, both mind and body. Beyond that, it can refresh one’s perspective. It can help one to see oneself as a member of a care partnership instead of a person providing care to another. This recognition can make the shared experience much more meaningful
Even with recent failed drug trials I am more optimistic now about our likelihood of finding an Alzheimer’s treatment that is, for all practical purposes, a cure. But it has to be administered long before disease symptoms are noticeable.
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