Category Archives: Alzheimer’s

Anthrax as a secret weapon to kill cancer?

pixabay petri dishBacillus anthracis, commonly known as anthrax, is extremely efficient at injecting its toxin into host cells. This characteristic is part of the reason that live Bacillus anthracis is handled at high biosafety levels in the laboratory. But it also prompted researchers at MIT to consider ways to use anthrax’s efficient delivery method to their advantage. The result? A new potential drug delivery method for cancer treatments!

Antibody mimics can disrupt protein interactions inside cells- including cancer-causing proteins. But getting them there is the challenge. Researchers used a component of the anthrax toxin to carry them. But this time, instead of injecting anthrax toxin into cells, the antibody mimics were injected. And it worked! The next step in this research is to attempt to translate it into animal models. Hopefully, this research will move forward and prove to be successful enough in animals to start human clinical trials! Read about it here.

This isn’t the first time researchers have used the Trojan horse approach in disease treatment research. Read about a similar method used in Alzheimer’s research here.

 

Lasers: A new way to map the brain!

pixabay lasersResearchers have found a way to map the brain using lasers! Chemists from Stanford University have come up with a way to track blood vessels in the brain in a new, non-invasive technique. Ultimately, this research could help improve the understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Current methods for investigating the brain are either too invasive or not detailed enough. Surgery can cause trauma that can negatively impact brain activity, and while MRIs and CT scans can give a good amount of information, sometimes it just isn’t enough.

That’s where this new technique comes in. Researchers inject water-soluble carbon nanotubes into a mouse’s bloodstream. These nanotubes fluoresce at particular wavelengths, so when researchers shine a near-infrared laser over the mouse’s skull, they can see the nanotubes, which show the structures of blood vessels. Scientists were able to see about 3mm underneath the scalp, and this technique doesn’t appear to have any negative effects on brain functions.

This research was developed in mice, but it may be able to be used in humans as well. The technique would need to be modified to allow researchers to see deeper into the brain, and they would need to identify an appropriate fluorescing agent to use. But hopefully, this new technique could give researchers a new way to study strokes, migraines, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. Read more about it here:

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/august/skull-blood-flow-080614.html

Alzheimer’s and low Vitamin D: a link confirmed

3d vitamins.New research finds an association between low vitamin D levels and the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

This study followed 1,658 people over the age of 65 who showed no signs of dementia. The results were surprising- it seems that people with low vitamin D levels had a 53% increased risk of developing dementia, and people with extremely deficient levels had a 125% increased risk of developing dementia (in comparison to participants with normal vitamin D levels).

It’s important to note that this research doesn’t imply that low vitamin D levels CAUSE dementia. However, it seems that there is a correlation between the two that warrants further investigation. It’s possible that this research could lead to new dietary recommendations in an attempt to boost vitamin D levels. Could vitamin D supplements prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer’s?

Research in the past has shown that vitamin D could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in mice. Alzheimer’s research is actually a great example of the importance of animal models. Because Alzheimer’s is generally a disease that affects people later in life, studies in humans could take years- or decades- to yield useful results. Alzheimer’s mouse models are used in research because researchers can observe changes from one generation to the next in a relatively short period of time.

Read more about the possible correlation between vitamin D and dementia here:

https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/1300

Alzheimer’s Disease successfully reversed in mice!

alzheimer's freeThe incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease is increasing, and it’s projected that by the year 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s could triple. But new research could change that: researchers have discovered a drug compound that has successfully reversed the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in mice! After just one dose of this compound, called TC-2153, mice with Alzheimer’s were able to learn just as well as healthy mice!

Here’s how they figured it out: the protein STEP (STriatal-Enriched tyrosine Phosphatase) attacks neurotransmitters in the brain and prevents patients with Alzheimer’s from learning and retaining new information. STEP levels are often elevated in patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. Knowing this, researchers turned to mice for help. They previously found that when Alzheimer’s mouse models (mice that are genetically engineered to develop the disease) had lowered levels of STEP, their cognitive abilities were similar to those of unaffected mice. The problem is that researchers could genetically lower STEP levels in mice- but you can’t do that in humans.

The understanding of STEP’s role in the disease led researchers to search for different compounds that could block it. And it appears that they’ve succeeded! More research is certainly needed to determine whether or not TC-2153 will work in other animals, and possibly humans, but the identification of this STEP-inhibiting compound is certainly good news! Read more about it here: http://www.newsweek.com/alzheimers-cure-worked-mice-compound-tc-2153-263171

Memory-restoring implant by 2017!

Molecular ThoughtsAn implantable neural device could restore memory in patients with Alzheimer’s! The Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding the development of this device, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, UCLA, and Medtronic are going to work together to make it a reality.

The device will stimulate neural tissue to bridge gaps in the brain, making it possible for patients to access memories and also form new ones. This device could also help patients with TBI (traumatic brain injury). This closed-loop, wireless device will be implanted into the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex.

Neurostimulators were piloted in rodents and dogs before approved for human use, and it’s amazing to see the advances and the potential associated with this research. Patients suffering from Parkinson’s and chronic pain are already benefiting from this technology, and with the rising incidence of Alzheimer’s, the potential for treatment with this device is great news. The hope is to have this device in clinical trials by 2017. Read more about it here:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140710175337.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_science+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Top+Science+News%29&utm_content=FaceBook

Remember when you were a baby? Didn’t think so…

iStock_000006222697SmallEver wonder why you can’t remember anything that happened when you were a baby? Babies can certainly form memories- but they don’t store them in a way that allows them to access those memories when they’re older. It’s called infantile amnesia, and new research is shedding light on a possible physical mechanism for the phenomenon.

It turns out that when you’re a baby, new brain cells are generated at such a fast rate that essentially there’s too much cell turnover to allow the infant to store memories. They can form memories, but if they can’t store those memories, they can’t access them when they get older.

Through research in rodents, guinea pigs and degus, researchers found that changing the rate of neurogenesis (generating new brain cells) affects memory storage. Animals who had their neuron production slowed down were able to remember things better than those that had their neuron production sped up (like the high rate of neurogenesis in infants).

It’s possible that lack of language skills and emotional development still play a role in infantile amnesia, but investigation into the rate of neurogenesis is certainly interesting. By looking into other effects of changing the rate of neurogenesis, could a treatment or prevention for Alzheimer’s be on the horizon? What do you think?

Read more about it here:

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20140107-25789.html

More cocoa= less Alzheimer’s?

pixabay chocolateYes, you read that right- new research suggests that diets including specific types of cocoa could prevent Alzheimer’s! We’re not talking about the candy bars you grab at the grocery store check-out line, though… we’re talking about cocoa extract.

In Alzheimer’s patients, the accumulation of beta amyloid proteins damages nerve cells. But through a recent mouse study, researchers found that a specific cocoa extract prevents this accumulation. Lavado cocoa extract is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, and the study suggests that using it as a dietary supplement could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Because brain damage begins to occur in Alzheimer’s patients long before the onset of physical symptoms, prevention is extremely important.

This isn’t the first time the chocolate has been recommended for health benefits. Past research suggests that chocolate may lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of stroke and diabetes. Read more about cocoa and Alzheimer’s here:

http://www.alnmag.com/news/2014/06/cocoa-extract-counters-alzheimers-mechanisms-mice?et_cid=4013152&et_rid=655142386&location=top

Alzheimer’s, worms, and paper airplanes

Jet Aeroplane Landing from Bright Twilight SkyAlzheimer’s Disease affects over 35 million people worldwide, and it’s expected that by 2050, over 115 million people will suffer from this disease. Understanding this disease is important- so what do worms and paper airplanes have to do with anything?

As you age, proteins in your brain build up and can prevent normal cell function. Neural damage due to protein build-up is seen in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease. But researchers have found a molecule that can enhance defense mechanisms against these toxic proteins. And recent studies have shown that it effectively clears these proteins out of worms (C. elegans) and extends their lifespan. 

It sounds far-fetched, but this little worm can actually give scientists a lot of valuable information. By using such simple organisms, researchers can understand more about the underlying mechanisms of dementia. It’s like making paper airplanes- the aerodynamic principles behind paper airplane flight are also relevant when it comes to the principles behind flying a Boeing 777. Think of these little worms as the paper airplanes, and the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient as the Boeing 777. Let’s hope that these worms give researchers the important information they need to help develop a successful therapy for Alzheimer’s!

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-03-small-worm-alzheimer.html

Alzheimer’s Disease, mice, and miracles

iStock_000004804600MediumAlzheimer’s Disease is devastating. I know this; I’ve seen the effects of Alzheimer’s in my own family. Currently, there is no cure for this disease that affects over 5 million Americans. And by 2050, that number could triple. The cost of this disease is staggering- and that doesn’t just include the estimated cost to the U.S. of $203 billion in 2013, or the projected $1.2 trillion that it will cost us by 2050. I’m talking about the cost of watching your loved ones slowly forget who you are, who they are, and everything they’ve spent their lives working to achieve. If you’ve been touched by this disease, you know what I mean. This is a disease that’s worth fighting. With everything we’ve got.

Animal rights activists argue that we can’t learn anything from animals. But that’s simply not true. By working with Alzheimer’s mouse models, researchers are learning how the disease starts, and they’re already working on ways to develop early treatments that could benefit humans. This type of research would be impossible to carry out in humans; by the time humans begin to show clinical signs of the disease, significant damage has already being done. We want hope; we want cures; we want a future; we want a miracle. That’s where the mice come in.

http://mag.newsweek.com/2014/02/21/price-killing-animal-testing.html

www.alz.org

 

Are there animals in YOUR medicine cabinet?

Dog and pills.How have animals helped YOU today? If you’re not familiar with research, you might not have any idea. But did you know that most of our medical advances wouldn’t have been possible without animals? It’s amazing to learn about the ways they’ve helped us!

Antibiotic ointment, aspirin, cold medicines, penicillin, anti-depressants, blood pressure and cholesterol medications, insulin, anti-coagulants, anesthesia, HIV drugs, chemotherapy, dialysis, CT scans, MRIs, prosthetics, organ transplants, and thousands of other medications and procedures were developed and determined to be safe for your use, thanks to dedicated researchers and the animals they work with.

The list goes on. I will guarantee that every person reading this has benefited from at least some of these advances. What’s more, I’ll bet your pets have benefited as well! And that’s a wonderful thing! Think of the symptoms we can alleviate due to medications, the life-threatening emergencies that we can SURVIVE, and the illnesses that our children may never get, thanks to vaccines. Polio, measles, cervical cancer, rabies, chicken pox, whooping cough, tetanus, Hepatitis B- and that’s just the beginning of the list!

EMBRACE it. Be thankful for it. The next time you reach into your medicine cabinet, take a minute to think about the scientific advances that led to the development of the medication that’s about to help you!

http://news.discovery.com/animals/animals-in-your-medicine-cabinet-photos-140204.htm

http://fbresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/AADflyer-hires.pdf