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

Human Rights Watch Finds Nursing Homes Overmedicate Dementia Patients

Nursing homes in the U.S. are administering antipsychotic drugs to tens of thousands of elderly residents each week who do not have the diagnoses for which the drugs are prescribed and who are not giving their “free and informed consent,” according to a new Human Rights Watch report.

In a report released Monday titled, “They Want Docile,” the group states that some 179,000 residents of long-term nursing homes across the country are given antipsychotic drugs each week that are not appropriate for their condition. The report says the drugs are used for their sedating side effects, which make patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease easier to manage.

“People with dementia are often sedated to make life easier for overworked nursing home staff, and the government does little to protect vulnerable residents from such abuse,” Hannah Flamm, a New York University law school fellow at Human Rights Watch told The Guardian.

Full story at US News

Alzheimer’s drug targeting soluble amyloid falls short in a large clinical trial

A paper published today in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that solanezumab, a monoclonal antibody-based treatment for Alzheimer’s disease developed by Eli Lilly that targets amyloid plaques, did not significantly slow cognitive decline.

Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) led the multicenter study.

Researchers have proposed that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the buildup of a sticky protein called beta-amyloid. According to this ‘amyloid hypothesis,’ the protein forms plaques in the brain that damage and eventually destroy brain cells. Solanezumab was designed to reduce the level of soluble amyloid molecules before they aggregate.

Full story at Science Daily

Music Therapy Offers an End-of-Life Grace Note

At 90, Beverly Herzog is writing songs for the first time.

Once a week, a music therapist helps Mrs. Herzog transform her thoughts into lyrics, then sings them back to her mellifluously over the strums of her guitar. The result can be transformative. When Mrs. Herzog listened during a session in December, she marveled at how magically the music reflected her views on love and life.

“I can’t believe it,” Mrs. Herzog said in her room at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx. “So I sit with my mouth open, I do. And I’m starting to get an appreciation, not just swallowing it,” she added. “Not because it’s a song that we wrote together, but because it feels, like, complete, for all of us.”

Full story at The New York Times

Dementia with Lewy bodies: Unique genetic profile identified

Dementia with Lewy bodies has a unique genetic profile, distinct from those of Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, according to the first large-scale genetic study of this common type of dementia.

The genome-wide association study, conducted by a UCL-led collaboration of 65 academics in 11 countries and funded by Alzheimer’s Society and the Lewy Body Society, is published in The Lancet Neurology.

“Dementia with Lewy bodies accounts for 10-15% of dementia cases, yet our understanding of it lags beyond the more well-known Alzheimer’s disease, partly because it’s commonly misdiagnosed. Our findings clarify the disease’s distinctive genetic signature, which should, in the future, help improve clinical trials, and lead to more targeted treatments,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Jose Bras (UCL Institute of Neurology and Alzheimer’s Society senior research fellow).

Full story at Science Daily

Population of Americans with Alzheimer’s will more than double by 2060

About 15 million Americans will have either Alzheimer’s dementia or mild cognitive impairment by 2060, up from approximately 6.08 million this year, according to a new study by researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

The findings highlight the need to develop measures that could slow the progression of the disease in people who have indications of neuropathological changes that could eventually lead to Alzheimer’s dementia, said Ron Brookmeyer, professor of biostatistics at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the study’s lead author. The country’s population is aging and with it comes a growing number of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. The study is the first of its kind that has estimated the numbers of Americans with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.

Full story at Science Daily

Higher risk of dying due to heart cell damage without any symptoms occurs during or after non-heart surgery

Surgery that doesn’t involve the heart may cause damage to the heart in people with known or at high risk of developing heart disease and was associated with an increased risk of death, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

Heart cell damage during or after non-heart surgery, known as perioperative myocardial injury (PMI), is an important yet often undetected complication following non-heart surgery and is strongly associated with death within 30 days after surgery, according to research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation. The causes of PMI are still under investigation.

“Patients with PMI are easily missed because they show no symptoms of heart disease in the majority of cases and only very rarely experience chest pain, which is the typical symptom of heart attack,” said Christian Puelacher, M.D., Ph.D., first author of the study and a clinical researcher at Cardiovascular Research Institute Basel, in Basel, Switzerland.

Full story at Science Daily

Gene variant that protects against Alzheimer’s disease identified

Research published Wednesday in Genome Medicine details a novel and promising approach in the effort to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Brigham Young University professors Perry Ridge and John Kauwe led the discovery of a rare genetic variant that provides a protective effect for high-risk individuals — elderly people who carry known genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s — who never acquired the disease.

In other words, there’s a specific reason why people who should get Alzheimer’s remain healthy. Study authors believe this genetic function could be targeted with drugs to help reduce the risk of people getting the disease.

Full story at Science Daily

Older Adults: 4 Things to Consider When Care Planning

As a clinical social worker and care coordinator at Montefiore Health System’s Center for the Aging Brain, I’ve learned that older adults face similar barriers when it comes to navigating health care. Many predict that by the year 2030, the amount of older American’s will double and account for a significant amount of our population. As this population continues to grow, it’s important that caregivers are aware of some common issues faced by older adults to ensure their loved ones receive the best care. Here are things to consider when planning for care.

Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2017 Facts and Figures, 37 percent of our population ages 85 and over will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; 17 percent of those ages 65 to 74 and 1 in 10 people over age 65 will also receive this diagnosis. Alzheimer’s disease is a health crisis that is not only affecting older American’s emotionally but also causing a financial crisis. Associated costs are climbing into the billions for both patients and their caregivers. Although there’s not a cure for the disease, preventive measures, such as regular physical activity and dieting, can be taken to reduce the chances of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Full story at US News

Saving neurons may offer new approach for treating Alzheimer’s disease

Treatment with a neuroprotective compound that saves brain cells from dying also prevents the development of depression-like behavior and the later onset of memory and learning problems in a rat model of Alzheimer’s disease. Although the treatment protects the animals from Alzheimer’s-type symptoms, it does not alter the buildup of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the rat brains.

“We have known for a long time that the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease have amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles of abnormal tau protein, but it isn’t completely understood what is cause or effect in the disease process,” say senior study author Andrew Pieper, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and associate director of the Iowa Neuroscience Institute at the University of Iowa. “Our study shows that keeping neurons alive in the brain helps animals maintain normal neurologic function, regardless of earlier pathological events in the disease, such as accumulation of amyloid plaque and tau tangles.

Full story at Science Daily