Normal Brain vs. Brain With Dementia

YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A brain specialist to notice certain differences in images of a healthy older person’s brain compared to that of someone with dementia. Narrowed, depleted folds on the brain’s surface, the presence of blotchy plaques, twisted fibers and significant shrinkage are clearly visible. What you can’t see is how brain changes like these affect how people’s minds work.

In a program from the National Press Foundation and funded by AARP, “Understanding the Latest on Dementia Issues,” journalists heard from a spectrum of dementia experts, including researchers, gerontologists, family caregivers and a brilliant engineer who described her personal journey with early-onset Alzheimer’s. In addition, a leading neuroscientist detailed how normal brain aging is very different than changes arising from dementia and not something to be feared.

Full story at US News

Call it Mighty Mouse: Breakthrough leaps Alzheimer’s research hurdle

University of California, Irvine researchers have made it possible to learn how key human brain cells respond to Alzheimer’s, vaulting a major obstacle in the quest to understand and one day vanquish it. By developing a way for human brain immune cells known as microglia to grow and function in mice, scientists now have an unprecedented view of crucial mechanisms contributing to the disease.

The team, led by Mathew Blurton-Jones, associate professor of neurobiology & behavior, said the breakthrough also holds promise for investigating many other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury, and stroke. The details of their study have just been published in the journal Neuron.

The scientists dedicated four years to devising the new rodent model, which is considered “chimeric.” The word, stemming from the mythical Greek monster Chimera that was part goat, lion and serpent, describes an organism containing at least two different sets of DNA.

Full story at Science Daily

Alzheimer’s: Common gene explains why some drugs fail

New insights into a specific gene variant may help to explain why some Alzheimer’s drugs work in certain people but may fail in others. The findings call for a more personalized approach to drug testing.

Earlier this year, a study led by Dr. Kinga Szigeti, Ph.D., who is the director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at the University of Buffalo, NY, found a key gene that helped explain why some Alzheimer’s drugs showed promise in animal models but failed in humans.

The gene is called CHRFAM7A, and it is specific to humans, although only 75% of people have it. It is a so-called fusion gene — that is, a fusion between a gene that encodes a receptor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and a type of enzyme called a kinase.

Full story at Medical News Today

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