Links for Keyword: Alzheimers

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By Gina Kolata and Pam Belluck A committee of independent advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously on Monday that the benefits outweigh the risks of the newest experimental drug for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s afflicts more than six million Americans. It has no cure, and there is no treatment or lifestyle modification that can restore memory loss or reverse cognitive decline. The drug, made by Eli Lilly, is donanemab. It modestly slowed cognitive decline in patients in the early stages of the disease but also had significant safety risks, including swelling and bleeding in the brain. The committee concluded, though, that the consequences of Alzheimer’s are so dire that even a modest benefit can be worthwhile. The F.D.A. usually follows the advice of the agency’s advisory committees but not always. The drug is based on a long-held hypothesis that Alzheimer’s disease begins when rough hard balls of amyloid, a protein, pile up in patients’ brains, followed by a cascade of reactions leading to the death of neurons. The idea is to treat Alzheimer’s by attacking amyloid, clearing it from the brain. Two similar amyloid-fighting drugs were approved recently: Leqembi, made by Eisai and Biogen, was approved last year. That drug’s risks and modest benefits are similar to those of donanemab. Aduhelm, made by Biogen, is the other drug and was approved in 2021 but was discontinued because there was insufficient evidence that it could benefit patients. Donanemab was expected to be approved earlier this year, but in March, the F.D.A. decided that, instead, it would require donanemab to undergo the scrutiny of an independent advisory committee, a surprise to Eli Lilly. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29354 - Posted: 06.11.2024

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent A 10-minute brain scan could detect dementia several years before people develop noticeable symptoms, a study suggests. Scientists used a scan of “resting” brain activity to identify whether people would go on to develop dementia, with an estimated 80% accuracy up to nine years before people received a diagnosis. If the findings were confirmed in a larger cohort, the scan could become a routine procedure in memory clinics, scientists said. “We’ve known for a long time that the function of the brain starts to change many years before you get dementia symptoms,” said Prof Charles Marshall, who led the work at Queen Mary University of London. “This could help us to be more precise at identifying those changes using an MRI scan that you could do on any NHS scanner.” The research comes as a new generation of Alzheimer’s drugs are on the horizon. The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is assessing lecanemab, made by Eisai and Biogen, and donanemab, made by Eli Lilly, and both drugs are widely expected to be licensed this year. “Predicting who is going to get dementia in the future will be vital for developing treatments that can prevent the irreversible loss of brain cells that causes the symptoms of dementia,” Marshall said. The researchers used functional MRI (fMRI) scans from 1,100 UK Biobank volunteers to detect changes in the brain’s “default mode network” (DMN). The scan measures correlations in brain activity between different regions while the volunteer lies still, not doing any particular task. The network, which reflects how effectively different regions are communicating with each other, is known to be particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease. © 2024 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Cells and Structure of the Nervous System
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning; Chapter 2: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 29349 - Posted: 06.08.2024

Leyland Cecco in Toronto A leading federal scientist in Canada has alleged he was barred from investigating a mystery brain illness in the province of New Brunswick and said he fears more than 200 people affected by the condition are experiencing unexplained neurological decline. The allegations, made in leaked emails to a colleague seen by the Guardian, have emerged two years after the eastern province closed its investigation into a possible “cluster” of cases. “All I will say is that my scientific opinion is that there is something real going on in [New Brunswick] that absolutely cannot be explained by the bias or personal agenda of an individual neurologist,” wrote Michael Coulthart, a prominent microbiologist. “A few cases might be best explained by the latter, but there are just too many (now over 200).” New Brunswick health officials warned in 2021 that more than 40 residents were suffering from a possible unknown neurological syndrome, with symptoms similar to those of the degenerative brain disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Those symptoms were varied and dramatic: some patients started drooling and others felt as though bugs were crawling on their skin. A year later, however, an independent oversight committee created by the province determined that the group of patients had most likely been misdiagnosed and were suffering from known illnesses such as cancer and dementia. The committee and the New Brunswick government also cast doubt on the work of neurologist Alier Marrero, who was initially referred dozens of cases by baffled doctors in the region, and subsequently identified more cases. The doctor has since become a fierce advocate for patients he feels have been neglected by the province. © 2024 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 11: Motor Control and Plasticity; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 29342 - Posted: 06.04.2024

By Elissa Welle The traditional story of Alzheimer’s disease casts two key proteins in starring roles—each with clear stage directions: Plaques of sticky amyloid beta protein accumulate outside neurons as the condition unfolds, and tangles of tau protein gum up the insides of the cells. But it may be time for a rewrite. Amyloid beta, too, coalesces inside neurons and seems to mark them for early death, according to research posted on a preprint server last November. In brain slices from people with Alzheimer’s, but not in those from age-matched controls, cells containing intracellular amyloid beta decreased in number as the disease progressed. At first, the result appeared to be a mistake, says study investigator Alessia Caramello, a postdoctoral researcher in the UK Dementia Research Institute. Intracellular amyloid beta is “nowhere to be found” in most discussions of Alzheimer’s disease, she says. “It’s never mentioned. Never ever.” Instead, the field has long focused on the buildup of amyloid beta outside the cell. But even before those plaques form, there seems to be another pathological event, she says—namely intracellular amyloid—“Why not look at it?” The work from Caramello and her colleagues is not the first to suggest that amyloid beta, or Abeta for short, wreaks havoc inside neurons, not just in the extracellular space between them. This “inside-out” hypothesis, as it has been called, has implications for how scientists understand Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, it could help to account for some big mysteries around the condition—such as why the extent of amyloid beta plaques in the brain doesn’t always correlate with symptoms, why neurons die and why treatments to lessen plaques marginally slow down, but do not halt, the disease. “It just puts a totally different spin on how you need to address this,” says Gunnar Gouras, professor of experimental neurology at Lund University and a proponent of the inside-out hypothesis. “It’s really a cell biological, neurobiological issue that is a bit more complex. And we need to also study this instead of just saying, ‘Abeta is bad; we’ve got to get rid of it.’” © 2024 Simons Foundation

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29335 - Posted: 06.02.2024

By Ben Casselman Long before people develop dementia, they often begin falling behind on mortgage payments, credit card bills and other financial obligations, new research shows. A team of economists and medical experts at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Georgetown University combined Medicare records with data from Equifax, the credit bureau, to study how people’s borrowing behavior changed in the years before and after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or a similar disorder. What they found was striking: Credit scores among people who later develop dementia begin falling sharply long before their disease is formally identified. A year before diagnosis, these people were 17.2 percent more likely to be delinquent on their mortgage payments than before the onset of the disease, and 34.3 percent more likely to be delinquent on their credit card bills. The issues start even earlier: The study finds evidence of people falling behind on their debts five years before diagnosis. “The results are striking in both their clarity and their consistency,” said Carole Roan Gresenz, a Georgetown University economist who was one of the study’s authors. Credit scores and delinquencies, she said, “consistently worsen over time as diagnosis approaches, and so it literally mirrors the changes in cognitive decline that we’re observing.” The research adds to a growing body of work documenting what many Alzheimer’s patients and their families already know: Decision-making, including on financial matters, can begin to deteriorate long before a diagnosis is made or even suspected. People who are starting to experience cognitive decline may miss payments, make impulsive purchases or put money into risky investments they would not have considered before the disease. “There’s not just getting forgetful, but our risk tolerance changes,” said Lauren Hersch Nicholas, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine who has studied dementia’s impact on people’s finances. “It might seem suddenly like a good move to move a diversified financial portfolio into some stock that someone recommended.” © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29334 - Posted: 06.02.2024

Nicola Davis Science correspondent Having two copies of a gene variant known to predispose people to Alzheimer’s could in fact represent a distinct genetic form of the disease, researchers have said. The variant, known as ApoE4, has long been known to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, with two copies conferring greater risk than one. Now research has revealed almost everyone with two copies of the variant goes on to develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD), suggesting it is not only a risk factor but a cause. “Over 95% of the individuals [with two copies of ApoE4], have AD pathology either in the brain or in the biomarkers that we analysed,” said Dr Juan Fortea, the co-author of the research from the Sant Pau hospital in Barcelona. The video player is currently playing an ad. His team said the predicability of the age at which symptoms began was similar to other genetic forms of the disease such as autosomal-dominant Alzheimer’s disease (ADAD) and Alzheimer’s disease in Down syndrome (DSAD). Dr Victor Montal, a co-author from Barcelona Supercomputing Center, said the research had catalysed a paradigm shift in the understanding of the disease. “Whereas previously, the etiology of dementia was known in less than 1% of cases, our work has now enabled the identification of causative factors in over 15% of instances,” he said. However, the study did not shed light on the risk of developing dementia itself for people with two copies of ApoE4. © 2024 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29292 - Posted: 05.07.2024

By Joanne Silberner In March, the sons of Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize-winning Colombian writer, published a posthumous novel against the specific wishes their father expressed before he died in 2014 at the age of 87. García Márquez had struggled through several versions of the book as dementia set in, and, perhaps stung by uncharacteristic negative reviews from his previous novel, didn’t want the new one published. “Until August,” the story of a woman who travels to her mother’s grave once a year and takes a new lover on each visit, got mixed reviews. Some were outright harsh. In The New York Times, Michael Greenberg wrote “It would be hard to imagine a more unsatisfying goodbye.” García Márquez’s decline, he continued, “seems to have been steep enough to prevent him from holding together the kind of imagined world that the writing of fiction demands.” Wendy Mitchell, who was an administrator with England’s National Health Service until her diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2014, recalled the moment she learned of the publication plans last year. “I type every day for fear of dementia snatching away that creative skill, which I see as my escape from dementia,” she wrote last October in The Guardian. “Maybe Márquez thought the same?” The novel’s publication raises some vital questions about living with an aging and perhaps ailing brain. What do mild cognitive impairment and dementia do to our creativity? How do these conditions affect our ability to use words, formulate sentences, and craft stories? Neuroscientists have been exploring these questions for several decades. First, a few definitions. People with mild cognitive impairment have lost more of their cognitive functioning than others their age, and often struggle to remember things. But they’re capable of managing daily activities like dressing, eating, bathing, and finding their way around. In dementia, cognitive difficulties have increased enough to interfere with daily life, and personality changes are more likely.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29254 - Posted: 04.13.2024

By Catherine Offord Bone marrow transplants between mice can transmit symptoms and pathology associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a controversial study published today in Stem Cell Reports. Its authors found that healthy mice injected with marrow from a mouse strain carrying an extremely rare, Alzheimer’s-linked genetic mutation later developed cognitive problems and abnormal clumping of proteins in the brain. In claims that other scientists in the field have criticized as overstated, the team says its findings demonstrate “Alzheimer’s disease transmission” and support screening of human bone marrow, organ, and blood donors for mutations related to neurodegeneration. “The findings are not by any means conclusive,” says Lary Walker, a neuroscientist at Emory University. Although the team’s approach offers an interesting way to study potential causes of neurodegeneration, he says, “the mice do not have Alzheimer’s disease,” only certain symptoms that mimic those of the disorder and require further study. He and other scientists stress that the new findings should not deter people who medically need bone marrow or other transplants. Alzheimer’s is partly characterized by so-called plaques of beta amyloid, a fragment of a larger protein called APP, around cells in the brain. Although there are rare, early-onset versions of the disease driven by specific mutations in the gene coding for APP or related proteins, most cases arise in people over age 65 and don’t have a single known cause. Some research hints that in very unusual scenarios, Alzheimer’s could be transmitted via human tissue or medical equipment contaminated with disease-causing proteins. Earlier this year, for example, U.K. scientists described dementia and beta amyloid buildup in several people who had received injections of growth hormone from the brains of deceased donors. (The procedure was once a medical treatment for certain childhood disorders but was abandoned in the 1980s.)

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 29225 - Posted: 03.30.2024

By Esther Landhuis In January 2023, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved lecanemab — an antibody medication that decreases β-amyloid protein build-up in the brain — as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Pivotal evidence came from a large, randomized trial of people with early-stage Alzheimer’s, which afflicts around 32 million people worldwide. By the end of that 18-month study1, patients in the placebo group scored on average 1.66 points worse than their performance at baseline on a standard dementia test, which assesses cognitive and functional changes over time through interviews with a patient and their caregiver. The mean score of treated participants, by comparison, worsened by 1.21 points — a 27% slowing of cognitive decline. But is this improvement meaningful for patients and their families? There are two major categories of drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other progressive conditions: symptomatic drugs, which treat the symptoms, and disease-modifying drugs, which target the root cause. Donepezil and rivastigmine, for example, are symptomatic drugs that boost the activity of chemicals in the brain to compensate for declines in cognitive and memory function caused by Alzheimer’s disease, but they cannot stop its progression. Lecanemab, developed jointly by Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai and American biotechnology firm Biogen, targets the underlying issue of amyloid build-up in the brain, and in doing so, could fundamentally change the course of the disease. An important feature of disease-modifying drugs is that their benefits are cumulative. Studies of patients with multiple sclerosis, for example, have shown the benefits of starting disease-modifying drugs earlier in the course of the disease compared with later, including improved mortality rates and reduced disability in the long term. Being able to quantify how long a disease-modifying drug can delay or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease could change how researchers understand — and communicate — its benefits. © 2024 Springer Nature Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29193 - Posted: 03.16.2024

By Katherine Ellison Jonel Dershem first noticed problems with her memory in 2016 after her breast cancer surgery. She was only 50 and at first blamed the lapses on chemotherapy, and then on her busy, stressful life. So did her husband and friends — and doctor. “I kept blowing it off,” said Dershem, an obstetrician from Voorhees, N.J., whose challenges began with little things like leaving a faucet running and progressed to trouble finishing routine tasks. “I was our family’s primary breadwinner. I didn’t want there to be any serious problems.” In December 2022, nearly seven years after her memory loss began, Dershem was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Her delayed diagnosis wasn’t unusual, but experts say that needs to change. More than occasional forgetfulness, MCI causes problems that disrupt daily life but don’t make it impossible to function, said Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. It is often but not always a precursor to dementia, he added. “It’s a subtle condition,” said Petersen, who in 1999 led the first study differentiating patients with MCI from healthy subjects and those with dementia. If you miss a golf date once, no worries, he said, but if “that happened a couple of times last week and people in your family are starting to worry about you — well, that may be MCI.” “With MCI, people can still drive, pay their bills and do their taxes — they just do so less efficiently,” Petersen said. A 2022 study in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia projected that 14.4 million people in the United States would have MCI in 2025, and 19.3 million in 2050. An American Academy of Neurology subcommittee estimated that about 1 in 10 people ages 70 to 74 had MCI, and 1 in 4 ages 80 to 84 in 2018.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning; Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29178 - Posted: 03.05.2024

By Paula Span Determining whether someone has Alzheimer’s disease usually requires an extended diagnostic process. A doctor takes a patient’s medical history, discusses symptoms, administers verbal and visual cognitive tests. The patient may undergo a PET scan, an M.R.I. or a spinal tap — tests that detect the presence of two proteins in the brain, amyloid plaques and tau tangles, both associated with Alzheimer’s. All of that could change dramatically if new criteria proposed by an Alzheimer’s Association working group are widely adopted. Its final recommendations, expected later this year, will accelerate a shift that is already underway: from defining the disease by symptoms and behavior to defining it purely biologically — with biomarkers, substances in the body that indicate disease. The draft guidelines, Revised Criteria for Diagnosis and Staging of Alzheimer’s Disease, call for a simpler approach. That could mean a blood test to indicate the presence of amyloid. Such tests are already available in some clinics and doctors’ offices. “Someone who has biomarker evidence of amyloid in the brain has the disease, whether they’re symptomatic or not,” said Dr. Clifford R. Jack Jr., the chair of the working group and an Alzheimer’s researcher at the Mayo Clinic. “The pathology exists for years before symptom onset,” he added. “That’s the science. It’s irrefutable.” He and his colleagues on the panel do not recommend testing people who have no symptoms of cognitive decline. But skeptics predict that’s likely to happen nonetheless. If so, a sizable proportion would test positive for amyloid and would therefore be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A 2015 Dutch study estimated that more than 10 percent of cognitively normal 50-year-olds would test positive, as would almost 16 percent of 60-year-olds and 23 percent of 70-year-olds. Most of those individuals would never develop dementia. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29177 - Posted: 03.05.2024

Fen-Biao Gao Around 55 million people worldwide suffer from dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. On Feb. 22, 2024, it was revealed that former talk show host Wendy Williams had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, a rare type of dementia that typically affects people ages 45 to 64. Bruce Willis is another celebrity who was diagnosed with the syndrome, according to his family. In contrast to Alzheimer’s, in which the major initial symptom is memory loss, FTD typically involves changes in behavior. The initial symptoms of FTD may include changes in personality, behavior and language production. For instance, some FTD patients exhibit inappropriate social behavior, impulsivity and loss of empathy. Others struggle to find words and to express themselves. This insidious disease can be especially hard for families and loved ones to deal with. There is no cure for FTD, and there are no effective treatments. Up to 40% of FTD cases have some family history, which means a genetic cause may run in the family. Since researchers identified the first genetic mutations that cause FTD in 1998, more than a dozen genes have been linked to the disease. These discoveries provide an entry point to determine the mechanisms that underlie the dysfunction of neurons and neural circuits in the brain and to use that knowledge to explore potential approaches to treatment. I am a researcher who studies the development of FTD and related disorders, including the motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, results in progressive muscle weakness and death. Uncovering the similarities in pathology and genetics between FTD and ALS could lead to new ways to treat both diseases. Genes contain the instructions cells use to make the proteins that carry out functions essential to life. Mutated genes can result in mutated proteins that lose their normal function or become toxic. © 2010–2024, The Conversation US, Inc.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 11: Motor Control and Plasticity
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 29161 - Posted: 02.25.2024

David Robson Scientific discoveries can emerge from the strangest places. In early 1900s France, the doctor Albert Calmette and the veterinarian Camille Guérin aimed to discover how bovine tuberculosis was transmitted. To do so, they first had to find a way of cultivating the bacteria. Sliced potatoes – cooked with ox bile and glycerine – proved to be the perfect medium. As the bacteria grew, however, Calmette and Guérin were surprised to find that each generation lost some of its virulence. Animals infected with the microbe (grown through many generations of their culture) no longer became sick but were protected from wild TB. In 1921, the pair tested this potential vaccine on their first human patient – a baby whose mother had just died of the disease. It worked, and the result was the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine that has saved millions of lives. A black and white image pf Camille Guérin and physician Albert Calmette side by side. French veterinarian Camille Guérin and physician Albert Calmette developed the BCG jab in 1921 using sliced potatoes cooked with ox bile and glycerine. Photograph: Musée Pasteur Calmette and Guérin could have never imagined that their research would inspire scientists investigating an entirely different kind of disease more than a century later. Yet that is exactly what is happening, with a string of intriguing studies suggesting that BCG can protect people from developing Alzheimer’s disease. If these preliminary results bear out in clinical trials, it could be one of the cheapest and most effective weapons in our fight against dementia. According to the World Health Organization, 55 million people now have dementia, with about 10 million new cases each year. Alzheimer’s disease is by far the most common form, accounting for about 60%-70% of cases. It is characterised by clumps of a protein called amyloid beta that accumulate within the brain, killing neurons and destroying the synaptic connections between the cells. © 2024 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 29160 - Posted: 02.25.2024

By Miryam Naddaf An analysis of around 1,500 blood proteins has identified biomarkers that can be used to predict the risk of developing dementia up to 15 years before diagnosis. The findings, reported today in Nature Aging1, are a step towards a tool that scientists have been in search of for decades: blood tests that can detect Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia at a very early, pre-symptomatic stage. Researchers screened blood samples from more than 50,000 healthy adults in the UK Biobank, 1,417 of whom developed dementia in a 14-year period. They found that high blood levels of four proteins — GFAP, NEFL, GDF15 and LTBP2 — were strongly associated with dementia. “Studies such as this are required if we are to intervene with disease-modifying therapies at the very earliest stage of dementia,” said Amanda Heslegrave, a neuroscientist at University College London, in a statement to the Science Media Centre in London. According to the World Health Organization, more than 55 million people worldwide currently live with dementia. People are often diagnosed only when they notice memory problems or other symptoms. At that point, the disease might have been progressing for years. “Once we diagnose it, it’s almost too late,” says study co-author Jian-Feng Feng, a computational biologist at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. “And it’s impossible to reverse it.” By screening 1,463 proteins in blood samples from 52,645 people, the authors found that increased levels of GFAP, NEFL, GDF15 and LTBP2 were associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. For some participants who developed dementia, blood levels of these proteins were outside normal ranges more than ten years before symptom onset. © 2024 Springer Nature Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29146 - Posted: 02.13.2024

Ian Sample Science editor After a decades-long and largely fruitless hunt for drugs to combat Alzheimer’s disease, an unlikely candidate has raised its head: the erectile dysfunction pill Viagra. Researchers found that men who were prescribed Viagra and similar medications were 18% less likely to develop the most common form of dementia years later than those who went without the drugs. The effect was strongest in men with the most prescriptions, with scientists finding a 44% lower risk of Alzheimer’s in those who received 21 to 50 prescriptions of the erectile dysfunction pills over the course of their study. While the findings are striking, the observational study cannot determine whether Viagra and similar pills protect against Alzheimer’s or whether men who are already less prone to the condition are simply more likely to use the tablets. “We can’t say that the drugs are responsible, but this does give us food for thought on how we move into the future,” said the lead author Dr Ruth Brauer at University College London. “We now need a proper clinical trial to look at the effects of these drugs on Alzheimer’s in women as well as men.” Brauer and her colleagues analysed medical records for more than 260,000 men who were diagnosed with erectile dysfunction but had no evidence of memory or thinking problems. Just over half were taking PDE5 inhibitor drugs, including sildenafil (sold as Viagra), avanafil, vardenafil and tadalafil. The men were followed for an average of five years to record any new cases of Alzheimer’s. © 2024 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29138 - Posted: 02.08.2024

By Laura Sanders Under extremely rare circumstances, it appears that Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted between people. Five people who received contaminated injections of a growth hormone as children went on to develop Alzheimer’s unusually early, researchers report January 29 in Nature Medicine. The findings represent “the first time iatrogenic Alzheimer’s disease has been described,” neurologist John Collinge said January 25 in a news briefing, referring to a disease caused by a medical procedure. That sounds alarming, but researchers are quick to emphasize that Alzheimer’s disease is not contagious in everyday life, including caretaking and most medical settings. Support Science Today. Thank you for being a subscriber to Science News! Interested in more ways to support STEM? Consider making a gift to our nonprofit publisher, Society for Science, an organization dedicated to expanding scientific literacy and ensuring that every young person can strive to become an engineer or scientist. Donate Now “We are not suggesting for a moment that you can catch Alzheimer’s disease,” said Collinge, of the University College London’s Institute of Prion Diseases. “This is not transmissible in the sense of a viral or bacterial infection.” The reassurance is echoed by Carlo Condello, a neurobiologist at the University of California, San Francisco who wasn’t involved in the study. “In no way do we believe sporadic Alzheimer’s disease is a communicable disease,” he says. “Only under incredibly artificial, now out-of-date, medical practices is this appearing. It’s no longer an issue.” © Society for Science & the Public 2000–202

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29126 - Posted: 01.31.2024

By Laurie McGinley ABINGTON, Pa. — Wrapped in a purple blanket, Robert Williford settles into a quiet corner of a bustling neurology clinic, an IV line delivering a colorless liquid into his left arm. The 67-year-old, who has early Alzheimer’s disease, is getting his initial dose of Leqembi. The drug is the first to clearly slow the fatal neurodegenerative ailment that afflicts 6.7 million older Americans, though the benefits may be modest. The retired social worker, one of the first African Americans to receive the treatment, hopes it will ease his forgetfulness so “I drive my wife less crazy.” But as Williford and his doctors embark on this treatment, they are doing so with scant scientific data about how the medication might work in people of color. In the pivotal clinical trial for the drug, Black patients globally accounted for only 47 of the 1,795 participants — about 2.6 percent. For U.S. trial sites, the percentage was 4.5 percent. The proportion of Black enrollees was similarly low for Eli Lilly Alzheimer’s drug, called donanemab, expected to be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in coming months. Black people make up more than 13 percent of the U.S. population. The paltry data for the new class of groundbreaking drugs, which strip a sticky substance called amyloid beta from the brain, has ignited an intense debate among researchers and clinicians. Will the medications — the first glimmer of hope after years of failure — be as beneficial for African Americans as for White patients? “Are these drugs going to work in non-Whites? And particularly in Blacks? We just don’t have enough data, I don’t think,” said Suzanne E. Schindler, a clinical neurologist and dementia specialist at Washington University in St. Louis.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29122 - Posted: 01.31.2024

By Mark Johnson There had been early clues, but it was a family game of dominoes around Christmas 2021 that convinced Susan Stewart that something was wrong with her husband. Charlie Stewart, then 75 and retired, struggled to match the dots on different domino tiles. Susan assumed it was a vision problem. Charlie’s memory was fine, and he had no family history of dementia. But months later the Marin County, Calif., couple were shocked to learn that his domino confusion was a sign he had a lesser-known variant of Alzheimer’s disease. For patients with this variant, called posterior cortical atrophy, the disease begins with problems affecting vision rather than memory. The unusual early symptoms mean that thousands of people may go years before receiving the correct diagnosis, experts said. That may change with the first large-scale international study of the condition, published Monday in the journal Lancet Neurology. An international team led by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco studied records of 1,092 PCA patients from 16 countries and found that, on average, the syndrome begins affecting patients at age 59 ― about five to six years earlier than most patients with the more common form of Alzheimer’s. Although the number of patients with PCA has not been established, researchers say that the variant may account for as many as 10 percent of all Alzheimer’s cases; that would put the number of Americans with the condition close to 700,000. “We have a lot of work to do to raise awareness about the syndrome,” said Gil D. Rabinovici, one of the study’s authors and director of the UCSF Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. “One thing that we found in our large study is that by the time people are diagnosed, they’ve had [the disease] for quite a few years.” The study authors said they hope greater awareness of the syndrome will help doctors diagnose it earlier and will encourage researchers to include patients with PCA in future Alzheimer’s clinical trials. Unusual symptoms delay diagnosis

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning; Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 29107 - Posted: 01.23.2024

Jon Hamilton A new generation of blood tests is poised to change the way doctors determine whether patients with memory loss also have Alzheimer's disease. The tests detect substances in the blood that indicate the presence of sticky amyloid plaques in the brain — a hallmark of Alzheimer's. So these tests have the potential to replace current diagnostic procedures, like costly PET scans and uncomfortable spinal taps. Blood tests also promise to provide doctors with a quick way to identify patients who could benefit from new drugs that remove amyloid from the brain. But the accuracy of the tests still varies widely. "Some of them are really good, and some of them are really bad," says Dr. Suzanne Schindler, a dementia specialist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Blood tests represent the latest advance in efforts to detect the buildup of amyloid plaques and fibrous tangles in the brain. "It used to be that the only way you could definitively diagnose someone with Alzheimer disease is by doing an autopsy," Schindler says. Then, starting in the early 2000s, scientists found ways to detect plaques and tangles using PET scans and tests of spinal fluid. There are now versions of both approaches that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. But the scans are costly, and spinal taps are unpopular with many doctors and patients. Both also require expertise that is in short supply. So Schindler and her colleagues got a lot of attention in 2019 when they published a paper showing that amyloid plaques could be revealed by a blood test. © 2024 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29088 - Posted: 01.11.2024

By Mark Johnson In the first study of its kind in humans, researchers have discovered that it is safe to use sound waves fired into specific areas of the brain to open a protective barrier and clear the way for Alzheimer’s medications. The study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved just three patients, but it raises hope about the long-term potential of the treatment strategy known as focused ultrasound. “We want to be very cautious. This is the first three people in the world that have had this [treatment]. What we’ve learned from this, I think, can help us,” said Ali Rezai, lead author of the study and executive chair and director of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute at West Virginia University. Rezai stressed that the goal of the research is not to replace pharmaceutical treatments but to improve their benefits by helping more of the drug penetrate the brain. Nature has provided humans with a barrier made of tightly packed cells that blocks harmful toxins, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi, from reaching the brain. Known as the blood-brain barrier, this shield has for decades presented a major challenge to scientists trying to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which afflict at least 7 million Americans. The barrier is a locked door that stops about 98 percent of treatments from reaching the brain. With focused ultrasound, Rezai explained, “what we want to do is push individuals toward the milder stages of Alzheimer’s with less plaques to give them a fighting chance.” Two men and a woman suffering from mild loss of memory, learning, concentration and decision-making skills due to Alzheimer’s took part in the study. The patients, who ranged in age from 59 to 77, were given six monthly doses of the federally approved — if somewhat controversial — lab-made antibody aducanumab, sold under the brand name Aduhelm. The antibody, which is administered directly into a patient’s vein, reduces a sticky substance in the brain called amyloid beta, which clumps between neurons and disrupts their function.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Cells and Structure of the Nervous System
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning; Chapter 2: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 29085 - Posted: 01.09.2024