Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s

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

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

 

Have researchers discovered the Philosopher’s Stone of medicine?

iStock_000027186605SmallThe Philosopher’s Stone is a legendary substance that is believed to turn ordinary metals into gold. And in a way, researchers may have found it- a way to turn ordinary cells into extremely valuable new cells that could change the face of medicine.

Believe it or not, plants were the inspiration for this discovery. When exposed to environmental stressors, plant cells can change into immature cells that can develop into completely new plants. So scientists listened to the plants, and decided to see if they could create a similar response when ‘stressing’ mouse cells. And it worked! After trying several different tactics, they found that soaking cells in an acidic solution (think mildly acidic like vinegar, not sulfuric or hydrochloric acid) actually caused them to reprogram.

This breakthrough has enabled researchers to actually create cells that act like stem cells. Stem cells are important because they are flexible enough to be able to develop into any kind of cell (unlike skin cells, muscle cells, liver cells, etc. which already have defined purposes) with the right instructions. The use of stem cells isolated from embryos has been controversial, so this development has really been creating a buzz in the medical community!

Could ‘stressing’ cells help human patients? Is it possible that patients with limb amputations, nerve injuries, or degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s could benefit from this research? While it’s too early to tell, this is one amazing discovery that’s definitely worth keeping tabs on!

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/01/acid-treatment-could-provide-breakthrough-stem-cell-technique

A child is always in a mother’s heart!

baby feetThe bond between a mother and her child can be incredibly powerful. But research shows that it’s more than just emotional- a mother can carry a part of her child with her throughout her life!

During pregnancy, a mother provides her baby with warmth, safety, and essential nutrients. But it’s not all one-sided- the baby protects its mother, too! Through the blood exchange via the placenta, cells from the baby enter the mother’s bloodstream and can migrate through her body, ultimately settling in the heart, brain and other tissues.

This specific research study showed that these cells were less common in the brains of women who had Alzheimer’s disease. Earlier research has shown that fetal cells that remain in a mother’s tissues can help her fight off breast cancer, and research in mice showed that fetal cells literally helped heal a mother’s heart- when a pregnant mouse had a heart attack, fetal stem cells rushed to the area and began changing into new heart cells! That mother-child bond is stronger than you thought!

So if you’re a mom, regardless of where your child is, it might help you to know that a part of your child will always be in your heart- literally!

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=scientists-discover-childrens-cells-living-in-mothers-brain

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21185-fetus-donates-stem-cells-to-heal-mothers-heart.html#.UsY1g_RDuSp

New understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease for 2014!

Toward Digital EncryptionResearchers at Columbia University Medical Center have unlocked several important pieces of information about Alzheimer’s Disease: exactly where it starts, why it starts there, and how the disease spreads.

They’ve identified the specific part of the brain where Alzheimer’s starts- the lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC). The LEC normally accumulates tau, which makes it more likely to accumulate a specific protein called APP- and the combination of tau and APP damages neurons. Not good. 

And Alzheimer’s spreads like a domino effect. When neurons are compromised in the LEC, the neurons in surrounding areas also become compromised- including the hippocampus, which plays an important role in long-term memory storage.

Researchers used fMRI imaging and worked with humans and mice to discover this information. By showing that early changes can be detected using fMRI- and knowing exactly how the process works- detecting the disease before it spreads could be much easier. And this new imaging method could be a very helpful way to determine effectiveness of potential drugs! Read more here:

http://newsroom.cumc.columbia.edu/blog/2013/12/22/how-alzheimers-spreads/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-alzheimers-spreads