Better tactics for detecting, preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease depend on a clearer understanding of cellular-level changes in the minds of patients, and a new study has uncovered novel details about the vulnerability of one type of brain cell.
Researchers found that excitatory neurons — those that are more likely to trigger an action (as opposed to inhibitory neurons, which are less likely to prompt neural activity) — are more vulnerable to accumulations of abnormal tau protein, which is increasingly being implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.
The study also uncovered some possible genetic explanations for the vulnerability of those cells, work that has the potential to one day lead to targeted treatment. The study, co-led by Hongjun “Harry” Fu of The Ohio State University, appears today (Dec. 17, 2018) in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Fu, who recently came to Ohio State from Columbia University, co-led the research with Karen Duff of Columbia and Michele Vendruscolo of the University of Cambridge.
Dr. Oanh Le Meyer had recently started studying health disparities in Vietnamese Americans with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers when she first noticed symptoms in her own mother about five years ago.
First Meyer’s mom started asking the same questions over and over. Then the complex meals she would cook became simpler. By the time Meyer published her first study on support programs for those caring for Vietnamese Americans with dementia in 2015, she was one of her mom’s primary caregivers.
“There’s a grieving process to it that continues,” Meyer said. “But I think, being a scientist, I approached it more this is just an illness taking over her brain.”
A report newly published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia in the United States will double by the year 2060.
About 5.7 million individuals in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
This neurodegenerative disease is one of the leading causes of disability and the sixth-leading cause of mortality in the U.S.
With annual healthcare costs of more than $250 billion, the disease also puts a significant strain on the nation’s healthcare system.
Researchers at the University of Basel have discovered a factor that could support the early detection of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. This cytokine is induced by cellular stress reactions after disturbances of the mitochondria, the “cell’s power plants,” as neuropathologists write in the journal Cell Reports.
The normal functioning of human cells is based on the coordinated interaction of different cellular organelles. In many cases, an impaired communication between these organelles will lead to the activation of a stress response to ensure the survival of affected cells. A research group was able to demonstrate this in detail for brain neurons. The group is headed by Prof. Dr. Stephan Frank from the Institute of Medical Genetics and Pathology at the University of Basel and University Hospital of Basel; the universities of Cambridge (UK) and Padua (Italy) were also involved.
The neuropathologists were able to show that impairments on the level of mitochondria, commonly known as the “cell’s powerhouses,” also affect neighboring organelles, such as the so-called endoplasmic reticulum. A consecutively activated stress reaction leads to the release of fibroblast growth factor-21 (FGF21) by nerve cells with disturbed mitochondria. The Basel researchers further observed that the same substance is also induced in various models of neurodegenerative disorders, where it can be detected prior to neuronal cell death.
As Kathy Helgerson slipped the pair of MINDVR goggles over Rita Strauss’ head, the reaction was instant.
“It looks like Midnight!” Strauss, 87, said with glee. “My tomcat.”
It’s moments like this that lead Helgerson, Strauss’ daughter and founder of “Simple Steps to Technology” to say she has “the best job in the world.”
“It is so powerful, I can’t even tell you,” Helgerson said, tears welling in her eyes at the spark of recognition from her mom, who has Alzheimer’s. “It brings up those memories of the past. … If you had asked my mom about (the cat) normally, she would have forgotten about it.”
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.
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.
According to the latest studies from the Alzheimer’s Association, someone develops dementia every 66 seconds. That means in the 10 minutes it takes to read this article, nine new cases will appear. This number is on the rise, too – by the middle of the century, experts predict one new case of the disease every 33 seconds.
Dealing with the implications of dementia is a terrible burden not only for the afflicted, but for the families who care for them. Few things in life are as painful as watching a loved one lose their mental faculties, and few things are as worrisome as leaving those affected on their own, even for a short time.
Smart home technology can help relieve that worry, if only by a small amount. While some medical alert companies have systems specifically designed to make independence easier for patients, these systems tend to cost exorbitant amounts of money – sometimes $150 per month or more. But an expensive system isn’t always the answer: Basic smart home components can provide safeguards and alerts. Here are the top smart home features to consider for these loved ones.
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.