Genes vs. lifestyle: Study ‘undermines fatalistic view of dementia’

A new study investigates the effect of leading a healthful lifestyle on people who have a genetic predisposition to developing dementia.

Elżbieta Kuźma, Ph.D., and David Llewellyn, Ph.D., from the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom, are the joint lead authors of the new research, which appears in the journal JAMA.

Llewellyn, Kuźma, and colleagues also presented their findings at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2019, which took place in Los Angeles, CA.

In their paper, the authors explain that while scientists know that genes and lifestyle both significantly affect Alzheimer’s risk and the likelihood of other types of dementia, they do not yet know the extent to which making healthful lifestyle choices can offset the genetic risk.

Full story at Medical News Today

How having a close relative with Alzheimer’s may affect cognition

New research suggests that having a family history of Alzheimer’s may impair cognition throughout a person’s lifetime, but it also identifies factors that could offset these adverse effects. The findings may enable people at risk to take active measures for delaying or even preventing this form of dementia.

Having a close relative with dementia is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, it is one of the two most significant risk factors, together with age. Having a first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s raises relative risk by 30%, which means that a person’s existing risk goes up by almost a third.

Having a copy of the gene APOE4 that encodes the protein apolipoprotein E raises Alzheimer’s risk by threefold. Having both copies of the gene — which is a rare occurrence — increases the risk by 10 to 15 times.

Full story at Medical News Today

Could a cell phone game detect who is at risk of Alzheimer’s?

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis often relies on signs of memory problems. However, these issues usually do not appear until years after the disease has taken hold. A new smartphone game is using spatial navigation to detect Alzheimer’s before it is too late.

Another person develops Alzheimer’s diseas eevery 3 seconds, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International. The number of people living with this most common form of dementia currently stands at around 50 million. By 2050, experts expect this figure to have tripled.

The last “significant breakthrough” in Alzheimer’s research happened 4 decades ago, states the latest World Alzheimer’s Report. However, a recently developed smartphone game may alter that statistic.

Full story at Medical News Today

Dementia looks different in brains of Hispanics

A major new study from the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Center has uncovered dramatic differences in the brains of Hispanics with a dementia diagnosis compared with those of non-Hispanic whites and of African Americans.

The first-of-its-kind study, based on extensive analyses of autopsied brains, found that Hispanics diagnosed with dementia were much more likely to have cerebrovascular disease than either non-Hispanic whites or African Americans. Researchers also found that Hispanics and African Americans were more likely to have mixed pathologies, that is, a combination of Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease, than non-Hispanic whites. And non-Hispanic whites were shown to have more pure Alzheimer’s disease than either Hispanics or African Americans.

Published today in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the findings may help explain the higher rates of dementia among blacks and Hispanics, and point to the importance of treating each patient based on their individual risk factors.

Full story at Science Daily

Sleep Patterns May Offer Clues to Alzheimer’s

Poor sleep is common among Alzheimer’s patients, and researchers say they’re beginning to understand why.

Scientists studied 119 people aged 60 and older. Eighty percent had no thinking or memory problems, while the rest had only mild problems.

The researchers found that participants with less slow-wave sleep — deep sleep that’s needed to preserve memories and to wake up feeling refreshed — had higher levels of the brain protein tau.

Elevated tau levels are a possible sign of Alzheimer’s disease and have been linked to brain damage and mental decline, the scientists said.

Full story at US News

One type of brain cell may invite Alzheimer’s

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.

Full story at Science Daily

This professor began studying Alzheimer’s caregivers. Then her mother showed symptoms.

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.”

Full story at NBC News

Alzheimer’s burden will double by 2060, warn CDC

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.

Full story at Medical News Today

Potential indicator for the early detection of dementia, Parkinson’s

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.

Full story at Science Daily

Wisconsin Seniors Introduced to Virtual Reality Technology

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.”

Full story at US News