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Spotting Alzheimer’s Early Could Save America $7.9 Trillion

Alzheimer’s disease is among the most expensive illnesses in the U.S. There’s no cure, no effective treatment and no easy fix for the skyrocketing financial cost of caring for an aging population.

Spending on care for people alive in the U.S. right now who will develop the affliction is projected to cost $47 trillion over the course of their lives, a report issued Tuesday by the Alzheimer’s Association found. The U.S. is projected to spend $277 billion on Alzheimer’s or other dementia care in 2018 alone, with an aging cohort of baby boomers pushing that number to $1.1 trillion by 2050.

Research so far has been stymied by clinical failures. By one count, at least 190 human trials of Alzheimer’s drugs have ended in failure. No company has successfully marketed a drug to treat it, though many big pharmaceutical companies, including Merck & Co. and Pfizer Inc., have tried. Biogen Inc., a company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, saw its shares dive last month after it said it was expanding the number of participants in its trial for the drug aducanumab.

Full story at Bloomberg

New Funding Opportunities To Conduct Research on Exercise Interventions for People with Disabilities, and Health & Function for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Two new grant opportunities from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research(NIDILRR) at ACL have been announced: the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) on exercise interventions for people with disabilities, and the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on health & function for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The purpose of the DRRP program is to plan and conduct research, demonstration projects, training, and related activities (including international activities) to develop methods, procedures, and rehabilitation technology that maximize the full inclusion and integration into society, employment, independent living, family support, and economic and social self-sufficiency of individuals with disabilities.

DRRP on Exercise Interventions for People with Disabilities — The purpose of this DRRP is to generate new knowledge about the effectiveness of exercise interventions for people with disabilities.

Full story at acl.gov

Medical Marijuana for Older Adults

Back when baby boomers were in high school or college, marijuana was mostly about youthful experimentation. Now, medical marijuana gives cannabis new meaning for some older adults. In a growing number of states, people can use marijuana products to treat conditions such as chemotherapy side effects or certain types of pain.

Fibromyalgia has been a source of pain and disruption for Teri Robnett, 59, of Colorado. For 30 years, she’s coped with fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and irritable bowel issues. Over the years, she’s tried almost every treatment that traditional medicine has to offer, from ibuprofen to prescribed antidepressants and opioid painkillers like OxyContin. None really helped. Instead, alternative measures such as massage, acupuncture and herbal medicines provided some relief.

In 2009, Robnett began working in a marijuana dispensary. Although she had tried marijuana while much younger, she could take it or leave it for recreational use. Now, as she saw others turning to medical marijuana for conditions like hers, she received authorization to try it herself. “I feel so much better,” was her almost immediate reaction.

Full story at US News Health

Underlying cause of brain injury in stroke

New research shows how the novel drug QNZ-46 can help to lessen the effects of excess release of glutamate in the brain — the main cause of brain injury in stroke.

Published in Nature Communications, the study shows how identifying the source of damaging glutamate in stroke leads to discovery of brain protection with QNZ-46, a novel form of preventative treatment with clinical potential.

Existing studies show that restricted blood supply promotes the excess release of glutamate. The glutamate binds to receptors, over-stimulating them and leading to the break-down of myelin — the protective sheath around the nerve fibre (axon).

Full story at Science Daily

Home Sharing: Growing Trend or Desperate Need?

You may remember the show “The Golden Girls,” which showcased four aging womenwho took a creative approach to senior living: shared housing. They were way ahead of their time. Is home sharing a viable option for older adults? It can be a desired lifestyle choice for many but equally a life necessity for others.

Many baby boomers have a real desire to age in their own home, provided they’re capable and it’s safe. But sometimes the economic realities of upkeep, the need for companionship and socialization and even help around the house makes you want to consider a more formal senior community. Home sharing provides an alternative to senior living, whose costs can range from $2,500 a month in an independent community to over $100,000 a year in a skilled nursing facility.

Full story at US Health News

Trial for gout drug meets primary endpoint, raises safety

Febuxostat, a gout drug that has been in use for nearly a decade, was found to significantly increase the risk of death, even though it did not raise the risk of the trial’s primary endpoint, a combined rate of fatal and nonfatal adverse cardiovascular events, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session.

It is unusual for a clinical trial to reveal an increased risk of death without also showing a heightened risk of other cardiovascular outcomes such as nonfatal heart attack and stroke. The findings, which showed an uptick in deaths after patients had been taking febuxostat for two years or longer, call into question the safety of long-term febuxostat use in patients with cardiovascular disease, researchers said.

“This finding was entirely unexpected, and we’re at a loss at this time to explain why this finding was seen,” said William B. White, MD, professor of medicine at the Calhoun Cardiology Center of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and the study’s lead author. “The results were consistent across many subgroups; there was no evidence of a relationship with age, sex, race or ethnicity, history of cardiovascular disease, or duration or severity of the gout.”

Full story at Science Daily

He has autism. He’s willing and able to work. Can he find the right fit?

In the past decade, Tom Whalen, a 27-year-old Baltimore County man, has had jobs at an animal shelter, a mailroom, multiple grocery stores, a doggy day-care center and a landscaping company.

He is chatty, outgoing and engaging, quick to win over strangers and ask for opportunities. Then, in short order, he loses them.

“He could get jobs,” says his mother, Sue.

“The problem is maintaining them,” adds his father, Ed.

Full story at The Washington Post

New Technologies Help Seniors Age In Place — And Not Feel Alone

Nancy Delano, 80, of Denver has no plans to slow down anytime soon. She still drives to movies, plays and dinners out with friends. A retired elder care nurse who lives alone, she also knows that “when you reach a certain age, emergencies can happen fast.” So, when her son, Tom Rogers, talked to her about installing a remote monitoring system, she didn’t hesitate.

With motion sensors placed throughout the house, Rogers can see if his mom is moving around, if she’s sleeping (or not), if she forgot to lock the door and, based on a sophisticated algorithm that detects behavioral patterns, whether her activity level or eating habits have changed significantly, for instance.

“It gives both of us peace of mind, particularly as she ages and wants to live at home,” said Rogers, who lives near Washington, D.C., hundreds of miles away from her.

Full story at Kaiser Health News

Frail, Old and Dying, but Their Only Way Out of Prison Is a Coffin

Kevin Zeich had three and a half years to go on his prison sentence, but his doctors told him he had less than half that long to live. Nearly blind, battling cancer and virtually unable to eat, he requested “compassionate release,” a special provision for inmates who are very sick or old.

His warden approved the request, but officials at the federal Bureau of Prisons turned him down, saying his “life expectancy is currently indeterminate.”

Congress created compassionate release as a way to free certain inmates, such as the terminally ill, when it becomes “inequitable” to keep them in prison any longer. Supporters view the program as a humanitarian measure and a sensible way to reduce health care costs for ailing, elderly inmates who pose little risk to public safety. But despite urging from lawmakers of both parties, numerous advocacy groups and even the Bureau of Prisons’ own watchdog, prison officials use it only sparingly.

Full story at The New York Times

Nervous system discovery could inform stroke, pain therapies

New research published in the journal Nature for the first time reveals the atomic structure of a key molecular component of the nervous system.

Scientists at OHSU used advanced imaging techniques to ascertain the resting state of an acid-sensing ion channel. “They are really important ion channels that are spread throughout the body,” said senior author Eric Gouaux, Ph.D., senior scientist with the OHSU Vollum Institute and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “People have pursued them as targets for stroke therapies, and they clearly have important roles in pain transduction.”

Ion channels create tiny openings in the membrane of cells throughout the body, allowing the transmission of signals in the nervous system. Acid-sensing ion channels are believed to play a role in pain sensation as well as psychiatric disorders. OHSU scientists expect the basic science research will spur new research and development into therapeutic agents targeting the channel.

Full story at Science Daily