Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s Disease

Two Alzheimer’s drugs tested head-to-head in first-ever virtual clinical trial

An estimated 6.2 million Americans ages 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease. The national Alzheimer’s Association predicts that number to grow to 13.8 million by 2060, barring the development of medical breakthroughs that would prevent, slow or cure the debilitating disease.

Scientists may be one step closer to such a breakthrough thanks to a first-of-its-kind computer model that successfully simulated a clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of multiple treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

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“We’re calling this a virtual clinical trial, because we used real, de-identified patient data to simulate health outcomes,” said Wenrui Hao, associate professor of mathematics at Penn State, who is lead author and principal investigator on the study published in the September issue of the journal PLoS Computational Biology. “What we found aligns almost exactly with findings in prior clinical trials, but because we were using a virtual simulation, we had the added benefit of directly comparing the efficacy of different drugs over longer trial periods.”

Using clinical and biomarker data, the researchers built a computational causal model to run virtual trials on the FDA-approved treatment aducanumab, as well as another promising therapy under evaluation, donanemab. The two drugs are some of the first treatments designed to work directly on what may cause the disease, instead of just treating the symptoms.

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Eye Exams Save Lives

Most people are surprised to learn that early signs of serious medical conditions affecting your body can be detected in the eyes. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and even Alzheimer’s disease can be detected in the eye. That’s because the blood vessels and nerves in our eyes are reflective of the state of the rest of the body. A routine eye exam can do more than save your eyesight, it can also save your life.

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Take for example Barbara Krupar, a 65-year-old retiree from Ohio who went to her ophthalmologist after experiencing some disturbing changes in her vision. When Nicole Bajic, MD, examined her, she detected possible early warning signs of a stroke, and recommended Barbara go to the emergency room immediately to have her head and neck imaged. The ER physician determined that the carotid artery in her neck was 85 percent blocked. She was at imminent risk of suffering a stroke. The exam likely saved her life.

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Decreased proteins, not amyloid plaques, tied to Alzheimer’s disease – Study

New research from the University of Cincinnati bolsters a hypothesis that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a decline in levels of a specific protein, contrary to a prevailing theory that has been recently called into question.

UC researchers led by Alberto Espay, MD, and Andrea Sturchio, MD, in collaboration with the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, published the research on Oct. 4 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Questioning the dominant hypothesis

The research is focused on a protein called amyloid-beta. The protein normally carries out its functions in the brain in a form that is soluble, meaning dissolvable in water, but it sometimes hardens into clumps, known as amyloid plaques.

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Music helps patients with dementia connect with loved ones – NW

People with dementia often lose their ability to communicate verbally with loved ones in later stages of the disease. But a Northwestern Medicine study, in collaboration with Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA), shows how that gap can be bridged with a new music intervention. 

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In the intervention — developed at ITA and called “Musical Bridges to Memory” — a live ensemble plays music from a patient’s youth such as songs from the musicals “Oklahoma” or “The Sound of Music.” This creates an emotional connection between a patient and their caregiver by allowing them to interact with the music together via singing, dancing and playing simple instruments, the study authors said. 

The program also enhanced patients’ social engagement and reduced neuropsychiatric symptoms such as agitation, anxiety and depression in both patients and caregivers.

More than 6 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease. 

The study is unusual because it targeted patients with dementia and their caregivers, said lead study author Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour. Most prior studies using music for dementia patients have focused only on the patients. 

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Alzheimer’s detection up to 17 years in advance

The dementia disorder Alzheimer’s disease has a symptom-free course of 15 to 20 years before the first clinical symptoms emerge. Using an immuno-infrared sensor developed in Bochum, a research team is able to identify signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the blood up to 17 years before the first clinical symptoms appear. The sensor detects the misfolding of the protein biomarker amyloid-beta. As the disease progresses, this misfolding causes characteristic deposits in the brain, so-called plaques.

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“Our goal is to determine the risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia at a later stage with a simple blood test even before the toxic plaques can form in the brain, in order to ensure that a therapy can be initiated in time,” says Professor Klaus Gerwert, founding director of the Centre for Protein Diagnostics (PRODI) at Ruhr-Universität Bochum. His team cooperated for the study with a group at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg (DKFZ) headed by Professor Hermann Brenner.

The team published the results obtained with the immuno-infrared sensor in the journal “Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association” on 19 July 2022. This study is supported by a comparative study published in the same journal on 2 March 2022, in which the researchers used complementary single-molecule array (SIMOA) technology.

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Dynamic mental illness indicators caught by advanced AI in brain imaging

New research by Georgia State University’s TReNDS Center may lead to early diagnosis of devastating conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and autism—in time to help prevent and more easily treat these disorders. In a new study published in Scientific Reports a team of seven scientists from Georgia State built a sophisticated computer program that was able to comb through massive amounts of brain imaging data and discover novel patterns linked to mental health conditions. The brain imaging data came from scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures dynamic brain activity by detecting tiny changes in blood flow.

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“We built artificial intelligence models to interpret the large amounts of information from fMRI,” said Sergey Plis, associate professor of computer science and neuroscience at Georgia State, and lead author on the study.

He compared this kind of dynamic imaging to a movie—as opposed to a snapshot such as an x-ray or, the more common structural MRI—and noted “the available data is so much larger, so much richer than a blood test or a regular MRI. But that’s the challenge—that huge amount of data is hard to interpret.”

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Loss of smell linked to Alzheimer’s cognitive impairment and biomarkers

Decline in sense of smell is connected to faster buildup of Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology seen in brain scans, according to new research focused on older adults who live outside of nursing homes. The findings provide additional evidence that loss of smell (known as anosmia) is a key early sign of Alzheimer’s-related cognitive impairment and the accumulation of associated harmful proteins, such as amyloid-beta and tau. The research, led by NIA scientists, was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Decline in sense of smell had previously been confirmed as an early warning sign for Alzheimer’s in both human and animal studies, but its connection to the uptick of dementia-related brain imaging biomarkers over time had not been as closely studied in larger populations of older adults. For this study, the team tracked 364 participants from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) over an average period of about 2.5 years. The NIA-led BLSA is the longest running study of healthy aging in America.

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Risk Factors for Dementia May Vary with Age

Which vascular risk factors are associated with the risk of developing dementia may vary with age. A new study shows that among people around age 55, the risk of developing dementia over the next 10 years was increased in those with diabetes and high blood pressure.

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For people around 65 years old, the risk was higher in those with heart disease, and for those in their 70s, diabetes and stroke. For 80-year-olds, the risk of developing dementia was increased in those with diabetes and a history of stroke, while taking blood pressure medications decreased the risk.

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MSU research could lead to new Alzheimer’s treatments

Working with tiny bacteria, Michigan State University researchers led by Lee Kroos have made a discovery that could have big implications for biology. 

The researchers revealed a new way that nature can inhibit or switch off important proteins known as intramembrane proteases — pronounced “pro tea aces” — which the team reported April 26th in the journal eLife.

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Although the Spartans made this finding using a model organism, a microbe known as Bacillus subtilis, this type of protein is highly conserved, which is how evolutionary biologists say, “it’s everywhere.” 

These types of proteases are found in organisms that span the kingdoms of life, from single-celled bacteria to people. In fact, the first intramembrane protease was discovered in humans in 1997 and perhaps the best-known member of this family, named gamma-secretase, is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. 

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Loss of Neurons, Not Lack of Sleep, Makes Alzheimer’s Patients Drowsy

The lethargy that many Alzheimer’s patients experience is caused not by a lack of sleep, but rather by the degeneration of a type of neuron that keeps us awake, according to a study that also confirms the tau protein is behind that neurodegeneration.

The study’s findings contradict the common notion that Alzheimer’s patients sleep during the day to make up for a bad night of sleep and point toward potential therapies to help these patients feel more awake.

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The data came from study participants who were patients at UC San Francisco’s Memory and Aging Center and volunteered to have their sleep monitored with electroencephalogram (EEG) and donate their brains after they died.

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Glucose Levels at Age 35 Associated with Alzheimer’s – BUSM

Living your best life at 35, ignoring cholesterol and glucose levels, may impact your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease (AD) later in life. According to Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researchers, lower HDL (high-density cholesterol) and high triglyceride levels measured in blood as early as age 35 are associated with a higher incidence of AD several decades later in life. They also found that high blood glucose measured between ages 51-60 is associated with risk of AD in the future.

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“While our findings confirm other studies that linked cholesterol and glucose levels measured in blood with future risk of Alzheimer’s disease, we have shown for the first time that these associations extend much earlier in life than previously thought,” explains senior author Lindsay A. Farrer, PhD, chief of biomedical genetics.

The researchers believe that although high LDL has been consistently associated with AD risk in many previous studies, the link between HDL and AD was inconclusive, perhaps because most studies examining these relationships were conducted in persons who were 55 years and older at baseline. 

This study was conducted using data obtained from participants of the Framingham Heart Study who were examined in approximately four-year intervals throughout most of their adult lives. Correlations of AD with multiple known risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes (including HDL, LDL, triglycerides, glucose, blood pressure, smoking, and body mass index) were measured at each exam and during three age periods during adulthood (35-50, 51-60, 61-70).

The researchers found that lower HDL (the good cholesterol) is predictive of AD in early (35-50 years) and middle (51-60 years) adulthood and that high glucose in the blood (a precursor of diabetes) during mid-adulthood is also predictive of AD “These findings show for the first time that cardiovascular risk factors, including HDL which has not been consistently reported as a strong risk factor for AD, contribute to future risk of AD starting as early as age 35,” says first and corresponding author Xiaoling Zhang, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine.

According to the researchers, careful management of these factors starting in early adulthood can lower one’s risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as Alzheimer’s. “Intervention targeting cholesterol and glucose management starting in early adulthood can help maximize cognitive health in later life,” adds Farrer.

Farrer also points out, “the unique design and mission of the Framingham Heart Study, which is a multi-generation, community-based, prospective study of health that began in 1948, allowed us to link Alzheimer’s to risk factors for heart disease and diabetes measured much earlier in life than possible in most other studies of cognitive decline and dementia.”

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If a Family Member Has Alzheimer’s Disease, Will I Have It, Too? – NIH

If you are asking this question, I share your concern. My family has five cases of Alzheimer’s/dementia on both sides, including a grandparent, a parent, two aunts and a cousin.

Learning about your family health history may help you know if you are at increased risk for certain diseases or medical conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease.

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Cognitive decline key factor in predicting life expectancy in Alzheimer’s

Cognitive decline is the biggest factor in determining how long patients with Alzheimer’s Disease will live after being diagnosed, according to a new study from researchers at UT Southwestern. The findings, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, are a first step that could help health care providers provide reliable prediction and planning assistance for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.

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Using a National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center dataset on 764 autopsy-confirmed cases, C. Munro Cullum, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Neurological Surgery, and first author Jeffrey Schaffert, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in clinical neuropsychology at UT Southwestern, identified seven factors that helped predict life expectancy variances among participants. These factors are the most predictive of how many years of life remain after diagnosis.

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Extended Napping in Seniors May Signal Dementia

Daytime napping among older people is a normal part of aging – but it may also foreshadow Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. And once dementia or its usual precursor, mild cognitive impairment, are diagnosed, the frequency and/or duration of napping accelerates rapidly, according to a new study.

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The study, led by UC San Francisco, and Harvard Medical School together with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, its teaching affiliate, departs from the theory that daytime napping in older people serves merely to compensate for poor nighttime sleep. Instead, it points to work by other UCSF researchers suggesting that dementia may affect the wake-promoting neurons in key areas of the brain, the researchers state in their paper publishing March 17 in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

“We found the association between excessive daytime napping and dementia remained after adjusting for nighttime quantity and quality of sleep,” said co-senior author Yue Leng, MD, PhD, of the UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

“This suggested that the role of daytime napping is important itself and is independent of nighttime sleep,” said Leng, who partnered with Kun Hu, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, in senior-authoring the paper.

Watch-Like Devices, Annual Evaluations Used to Measure Naps, Cognition

In the study, the researchers tracked data from 1,401 seniors, who had been followed for up to 14 years by the Rush Memory and Aging Project at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago. The participants, whose average age was 81 and of whom approximately three-quarters were female, wore a watch-like device that tracked mobility. Each prolonged period of non-activity from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. was interpreted as a nap.

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Blood test can predict presence of beta-amyloid in the brain

Scientists have demonstrated that a new blood test can accurately predict the presence of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, according to a new study funded in part by NIA. Published in Neurology, the study analyzed the ability of a blood test to predict the presence of Alzheimer’s disease-associated protein beta-amyloid in the brain. The new blood test, which performs comparably to existing brain scan- or spinal tap-based tests, could lower costs and expand the availability of diagnostic studies for Alzheimer’s disease.

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Alzheimer’s is characterized by the buildup of a protein called beta-amyloid, which forms sticky plaques on the brain and can cause brain cells to die. Testing for the presence of these amyloid plaques on the brain is an important part of Alzheimer’s diagnosis and research. For people experiencing memory problems, checking for amyloid in the brain helps health care providers determine whether Alzheimer’s is the potential cause. It also can help doctors determine which patients will respond to drugs that target amyloid. For people without any signs of dementia, the presence of amyloid plaques on the brain may help researchers enroll participants in clinical trials for treatments to prevent or delay the onset of cognitive symptoms.

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Poor Score on Simple Memory Test May Be Linked to Alzheimer’s Biomarkers

Among people with no memory or thinking problems, having a poor score on a simple memory test may be linked to biomarkers in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease as well as very early signs of memory impairment that precede dementia by several years, according to a study published in the February 23, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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“These findings suggest that this test can be used to improve our ability to detect cognitive decline in the stage before people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease,” said study author Ellen Grober, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. “This could be helpful in determining who to enroll in clinical trials for prevention of cognitive decline. It could also help by narrowing down those who already have signs of Alzheimer’s in the brain with a simple test rather than expensive or invasive scans or lumbar punctures.”

For the test, people are shown pictures of items and given cues about the item’s category, such as a picture of grapes with the cue of “fruit.” Then participants are asked to remember the items, first on their own, then with the category cues for any items they did not remember. This type of controlled learning helps with the mild memory retrieval problems that occur in many healthy elderly people but does not have much impact on memory for people with dementia, Grober said.

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