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I have often wondered what a cure for Alzheimer’s would look like. If we find a drug that will halt the progression of this disease, will damaged neurons remain damaged?
Once Alzheimer’s begins to present symptoms, is it too late?
Much of the effort to find a cure centers around clearing the brain of the plaques and tangles that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. Plaques are formed when amyloid beta (Aβ) protein in the brain misfolds in a way that allows it to clump together with other folded proteins. The tangles result when tau protein clumps together to for neurofibrillary tangles. The two proteins are normally found in the brain, and are thought to provide a necessary function. The accumulation of proteins that are found in all Alzheimer’s affected brains are not necessarily normal, but there is even a difference of opinion about that. Many researchers believe that clearing the brain of these deposits will halt the progression of the disease.
Even if progression is stopped, reversing or repairing neuronal damage may not be possible.For this reason a timely diagnosis is extremely important; the importance of early detection is what drives the search for biomarkers that we have discussed here in weeks past. A study published this week claims to have found the “Big Bang” of Alzheimer’s disease; the point at which a tau protein begins to change but before it forms tangles.This could be the earliest possible point of diagnosis, before brain damage begins. I think that permanently stopping disease progression at this point could be considered to be a cure.
July 10, 2018 | Science Daily | Press Release
“We think of this as the Big Bang of tau pathology,” said Dr. Mark Diamond, Director for UT Southwestern’s Center for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases. Research at the institute points to a mechanism by which tau protein aggregates that differs from conventional wisdom. Using a mass spectrometry technique the scientists were able to compare good and bad forms of the tau protein: “…in the good form of tau the parts of the protein that allow it to stick to itself are hidden, folded inside. By contrast, the bad form of tau exposes the parts that allow it to aggregate, enabling the protein to build upon itself to form a large, toxic assembly.”
With a clearer picture of just what an abnormal tau protein looks like, the next step is to develop a test that will detect the first signs of the abnormal protein in the blood or spinal fluid.
The original article appeared in the journal eLife.
July 12, 2018 | Medical Press | Abstract
Biomarkers may someday play an important part in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s, but this is not that day. Biomarkers, substances in the blood, urine, or spinal fluid that indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s disease, have so far fallen short of hopes and expectations.
This new study may take diagnosis to the next level It has been known for some time that people with Alzheimer’s have iron in their brains. Unfortunately, it is not present in suitable concentrations to make detection feasible, even with magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) equipment.A group at UPM (Madrid) have developed nanoparticles that bind with iron in a way that makes it visible to fMRI imaging. This is, of course, very simplified, and is a mouse study, but may prove to be a viable means of early detection
Another mouse study, but we have to start somewhere, and law and ethics don’t allow exploratory experiments to be done on humans.
Quantum dots, particles small enough to pass the blood-brain barrier, have been found to prevent amyloid from clumping into the amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s by a team at the University of Science & Technology in Beijing. Byung Hee Hong, et al. of Seoul National University in the South Korea reported similar results with a protein called synuclein, which mis-folds to cause Parkinson’s disease. If further animal study goes well, Hong says his team hopes to start human trials in about two years.
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June 29th, 2018 | Newsweek | KASHMIRA GANDER
We have spent a goodly amount of time on our website researching and reporting on diet, and certain elements of diet, that may have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. We have also discussed environmental elements that may increase a persons risk of Alzheimer’s.
A recent study shows a diet high in fat and sugar is likely a risk factor for brain disease. The research, done at at Brock University in Ontario and reported in the journal of Physiological Reports, finds that such a diet increases inflammation and stress in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex in the brains of mice. From Newsweek: “The authors therefore believe the combination of a high fat, high sugar diet worsens the effects of aging on the brain in relation to Alzheimer’s disease.”
When I first read the story I had some questions, like “what were the fat and sugar sources?” I did find a radio interview with the investigator at Brock U. who said they used refined sugar and a fat source meant to imitate a fast food diet. Could it be that the popularity of junk food like McDonald’s that began in the 1960’s is somehow related to the rapid rise in Alzheimer’s prevalence that began a decade or so later? Hmmmm.
Every study we reported on this week, except the report of the herpes link, involves mice. This is indication of how early we are in Alzheimer’s research, and, barring an unforeseeable discovery, how far we still have to go.
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- I am happy to have found your site. There are lots of medical sites, but yours is appealing because it focuses more broadly on quality of life. Rebecca