Novel PET imaging agent could help guide therapy for brain diseases

Researchers have developed a new imaging agent that could help guide and assess treatments for people with various neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis. The agent, which is used in positron emission tomography (PET) scans, targets receptors in nerve cells in the brain that are involved in learning and memory. The study is featured in the April issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine.

Swiss and German scientists developed the new PET radioligand, 11C-Me-NB1, for imaging GluN1/GluN2B-containing N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors (a class of glutamate receptor) in nerve cells. When NMDA receptors are activated, there is an increase of calcium (Ca2+) in the cells, but Ca2+ levels that are too high can cause cell death. Medications that block NMDA receptors are therefore used for the treatment of a wide range of neurological conditions from depression, neuropathic pain and schizophrenia to ischemic stroke and diseases causing dementia.

“The significance of the work lies in the fact that we have for the first time developed a useful PET radioligand that can be applied to image the GluN2B receptor subunit of the NMDA receptor complex in humans,” explains Simon M. Ametamey, PhD, of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, ETH Zurich, in Switzerland. “The availability of such a PET radioligand would not only help to better understand the role of NMDA receptors in the pathophysiology of the many brain diseases in which the NMDA receptor is implicated, but it would also help to select appropriate doses of clinically relevant GluN2B receptor candidate drugs. Administering the right dose of the drugs to patients will help minimize side-effects and lead to improvement in the efficacy of the drugs.”

Full story at Science Daily

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

Technology As an Aid in Healing: How Smart Devices Can Give Caregivers Peace of Mind

For families of stroke victims, dementia patients and even those recovering from surgery or in rehabilitation, there’s an ever-present fear that something will happen when you aren’t around. What if there’s an accident? What if they fall and can’t call for help? Fortunately, new smart home technology offered by your internet service provider allows families to keep an eye on their loved ones even when they may not be physically present, bringing priceless peace of mind. Here’s how.

1. Video cameras can help ensure safety during home health visits and exercises.

Joint replacement surgeries require regular physical therapy and exercises, much of which must be done at home on a regular basis. Limited mobility can raise concerns about falls, but a video camera placed in a living room or exercise room allows family members to check in during physical therapy routines and make sure their loved one hasn’t fallen or injured themselves.

Full story at US News

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

Being unaware of memory loss predicts Alzheimer’s disease, new study shows

While memory loss is an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, its presence doesn’t mean a person will develop dementia. A new study at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has found a clinically useful way to predict who won’t develop Alzheimer’s disease, based on patients’ awareness of their memory problems.

People who were unaware of their memory loss, a condition called anosognosia, were more likely to progress to Alzheimer’s disease, according to the study, published today in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Those who were aware of memory problems were unlikely to develop dementia.

“If patients complain of memory problems, but their partner or caregiver isn’t overly concerned, it’s likely that the memory loss is due to other factors, possibly depression or anxiety,” says lead author Dr. Philip Gerretsen, Clinician Scientist in CAMH’s Geriatric Division and Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute. “They can be reassured that they are unlikely to develop dementia, and the other causes of memory loss should be addressed.”

Full story at Science Daily

Safe to treat dementia patients with clot-busting drugs, study shows

Stroke patients with dementia treated with intravenous thrombolysis using powerful clot-busting drugs are at no higher risk of brain haemorrhage or death than other patients receiving the same treatment, a study from Karolinska Institutet published in the journal Neurology reports.

Ischemic stroke is the most common form of stroke and is caused when a blood clot blocks the blood flow to the brain. Treatment with intravenous thrombolysis (IVT) using powerful clot-busting drugs within 4.5 hours of onset can greatly improve the prognosis and reduce the likelihood of patients losing the ability to speak or walk.

“Hospitals have tended to shy away from giving powerful clot-busting drugs to patients with dementia in the belief that such patients, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease, are more prone to brain haemorrhages,” says Sara Garcia-Ptacek, postdoc at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society. “We wanted to find out how great this risk really was.”

Full story at Science Daily

Staggering economic burden of dementia in younger people, study reveals

You may not have heard of it, but frontotemporal degeneration (FTD) accounts for 20 to 50 percent of dementia cases in people under the age of 65. FTD ravages an individual’s quality of life by dramatically altering their language, personality, behavior, cognition and motor function. But it doesn’t end there.

Research led by Florida Atlantic University, in collaboration with the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration and Emory University, is the first to capture the economic burden of FTD in the United States and the results are staggering. The study, published in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, reveals that costs associated with FTD are twice that of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The researchers also found that costs for FTD were greater in the U.S. than in studies originating in other countries and the implications for patients and their caregivers are dire.

Full story at Science Daily

Can we end damaging dementia psychosis cycle?

Up to two thirds of people with Alzheimer’s disease experience psychotic episodes, yet the distressing symptom is still widely under-recognised and is challenging to treat. Current antipsychotic treatments have little impact on alleviating symptoms, yet can have devastating side effects, leading to 1,660 unnecessary strokes and 1,800 unnecessary deaths in the UK every year.

Psychotic symptoms are linked to faster cognitive and functional decline and accelerated death rates.

Both psychotic symptoms and treatment side effects are more extreme in other types of dementia, including Parkinson’s Disease Dementia and Lewy Body Dementia. In these people, commonly prescribed antipsychotics can be particularly damaging, quadrupling risk of stroke and death.

Full story at Science Daily