Monday, January 22, 2007

Alzheimer's Vaccine Patch Works in Mice

The Alzheimer's vaccine being tested works by triggering the immune system to recognize and attack Ab -- a protein that abnormally builds up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

Source United Press International

Alzheimer's vaccine patch works in mice

MIAMI, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- A transdermal vaccine shows promise in treating the deadly memory-impairment disorder Alzheimer's disease in mice, say U.S. researchers.

The needle-free approach appeared effective in clearing the Alzheimer's-affected animals of the brain-damaging plaques that mark the disease, said researchers at the University of South Florida.

"While many groups have shown vaccinating against the beta amyloid protein (Ab) can reduce Alzheimer's-like pathology including certain cognitive deficits, this study is the first to demonstrate that immunization using the skin may be an effective way to reduce Ab pathology," said senior study author Jun Tan, director of the Neuroimmunology Laboratory at the Institute for Research in Psychiatry at USF.

The Alzheimer's vaccine being tested works by triggering the immune system to recognize and attack Ab -- a protein that abnormally builds up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

"The beauty is that something as simple and non-invasive as a skin patch could potentially be a promising therapy for Alzheimer's disease," said study coauthor Terrence Town.

A transdermal treatment for the disease would also reduce the risk of adverse immune reactions, the researchers said.

The study is published online this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Alzheimer's: Understand and control wandering

One of the questions I am most frequently asked is if I am worried that my mother might wander away and get lost.

Alzheimer's: Understand and control wandering

Wandering is one of the more widely known behaviors of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

This article from the Mayo Clinic explains this behavior and some of the likely causes and remedies.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Gene Linked to Alzheimer's

"It fits into what we believe is the main mechanism of Alzheimer's already," Gandy said. "This reinforces the idea that we're on the right track with therapies already in the pipeline, while also suggesting a totally new strategy that could be used to target entirely new classes of drugs."

New Gene Linked to Alzheimer's

Source Forbes and

Nature Genetics

SUNDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists has discovered a major new gene and linked it to the development of late-onset Alzheimer's disease. The researchers found that faulty versions of the gene --known as SORL1 -- are more common among those with the disease than among healthy people of a similar age. The finding is significant, the researchers said, because the study included more than 6,000 people from a wide range of racial and ethnic groups -- white Europeans, blacks, Caribbean-Hispanics and Israeli-Arabs.

Abnormal SORL1 genes seem to set in motion a neurological chain of events that promotes the production of amyloid plaque in the brain -- a development integral to the onset of Alzheimer's.

People with these gene variants also appear to have fewer normal SORL1 genes overall, a dip that the researchers believe could also raise the risk for developing late-onset Alzheimer's.

But, the researchers added that not all people with the faulty SORL1 gene will develop Alzheimer's.

"There are multiple genes and maybe some environmental factors [involved], and it may be that some people carry a risk gene but don't get the disease," explained study co-author Dr. Richard Mayeux, co-director of the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain in New York City.

"So, until we map out all of (the) genes involved we're not going to understand exactly how to calculate risk for this disease," he said.

The findings are published in the Jan. 14 online issue of Nature Genetics.

Mayeux made his remarks during a news conference prior to the study's release. He was joined by his co-lead collaborators: Dr. Peter St. George-Hyslop, director of the University of Toronto's Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases; Lindsay Farrer, chief of Boston University's Genetics Program; and Dr. Steven Younkin, chairman of the department of pharmacology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, in Jacksonville, Fla.

The researchers pointed out that three other genetic variants have been previously tied to the development of early onset Alzheimer's, a relatively rare form of the illness that typically strikes between the ages of 30 and 60.

However, only one other genetic variant has been previously linked to late-onset Alzheimer's, which typically strikes people over the age of 65 and accounts for 90 percent of all cases of the disease. This other variant -- known as ApoE4, and first isolated in 1993 -- is thought to account for about 20 percent of all late-onset Alzheimer's cases. ApoE4 is believed to elevate the risk of disease by between 30 percent and 40 percent, the researchers said.

As for the SORL1 variant, the study authors said it probably accounts for fewer cases of Alzheimer's than the ApoE4 variant.

The researchers based their SORL1 finding on a five-year genetic analysis of blood drawn from 6,000 people from around the globe. They included 500 black sibling pairs with one sibling who had Alzheimer's; 350 families in New York City, Toronto and the Dominican Republic -- totaling 1,800 people -- half of whom had the disease; and elderly residents of a northern Israeli-Arab community.

The researchers divided the entire pool into two groups -- one to establish the presence of SORL1 and the other to establish the gene's role. Describing SORL1 as a "big gene" that may contain as many as 500 variants, the researchers focused on the activities of just 29 -- leaving lots of gene turf yet to till.

None of the 29 variants so far appears to be directly related to an Alzheimer's chain of events.

But, when tallying the overall presence of both normal SORL1 and SORL1 with abnormal variants, the researchers found that in each of the racial and ethnic groups, SORL1 with variants was more common among the Alzheimer's patients than among the healthy men and women. And normal SORL1 was less common among those with the disease.

The researchers concluded that SORL1 clearly plays a role in the late-onset Alzheimer's.

While enthusiastic about the finding, Mayeux said it doesn't represent a smoking gun. "Alzheimer's disease is caused by a complex genetic puzzle, and the finding about SORL1 explains a section of the puzzle," he said. "It is not the entire story."

Mayeux and his colleagues stressed that much more work needs to be done.

Dr. Sam Gandy is chairman of the Alzheimer's Association's Medical and Scientific Advisory Council, and director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He agreed that the new finding is just one step down a long and complicated research road, but he said it could be an important step.

"It fits into what we believe is the main mechanism of Alzheimer's already," Gandy said. "This reinforces the idea that we're on the right track with therapies already in the pipeline, while also suggesting a totally new strategy that could be used to target entirely new classes of drugs."

An estimated 4.5 million people in the United States have either early or late-onset Alzheimer's disease, a number that's expected to double during the next 25 years as the population ages.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Decoding Alzheimer's | Alzheimer's Information

The statistics on the Alzheimer's Reading Room indicate that the knowledge base here on the ARR is being underutilized.

The Knowledge Base contains multiple articles on most topics that caregivers need to care effectively for a person living with Alzheimer's and related dementia.

We have more than 100 experts that have contributed articles to our Knowledge Base. This includes many of the world's best authors, researchers, geriatric care mangers, nurse PhDs, long distance and stay at home caregivers, and real hands-on experts.

We have one of the best organized, easy to use, intellectual capital bases on Alzheimer's and dementia in the world.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Imaging Method Detects Alzheimer's Risk

An innovative brain-scan technology shows promise in detecting those at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, years before symptoms become obvious.

Source Photonics

An innovative brain-scan technology shows promise in detecting those at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, years before symptoms become obvious, by showing in living brains the abnormal protein deposits that can lead to the disease -- something that previously could only be confirmed by autopsy.

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles are in the early stages of identifying biomarkers in the blood and spinal fluid to help with Alzheimer's diagnosis, but they said this study is the first to report a real-time "window into the brain" that identifies the major abnormal deposits of the disease, which affects 15 to 20 million Americans, in living people who may not develop it for years to come.

The researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) imaging employing a small molecule invented at UCLA that binds to the abnormal proteins -- amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles -- that may cause the disease. Previously, only an autopsy could determine the existence of these deposits and confirm a definitive diagnosis.

Study results found that the new method was able to track disease progression over a two-year period and was more effective than conventional imaging techniques in differentiating patients with Alzheimer's and mild cognitive impairment from normal study subjects. Mild cognitive impairment is a condition that increases the risk for developing Alzheimer's.

"The study suggests that we may now have a new diagnostic tool for detecting pre-Alzheimer's conditions to help us identify those at risk, perhaps years before symptoms become obvious," said Gary Small, Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging, lead study author and a professor with the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. "This imaging technology may also allow us to test novel drug therapies and manage disease progression over time, possibly protecting the brain before damage occurs."

The study included 83 volunteers aged 49 to 84. Based on cognitive testing, 25 patients had Alzheimer's disease, 28 had mild cognitive impairment and 30 were normal controls. Researchers performed PET brain scans after intravenously injecting the volunteers with the new chemical marker, called FDDNP, which binds to the plaque and tangle deposits found in Alzheimer's patients. Scientists found distinct differences among people with normal brain aging, people with Alzheimer's and people with mild cognitive impairment.

The PET imaging showed that the more advanced the disease, the higher the FDDNP concentrations in the temporal, parietal and frontal brain regions, where the abnormal protein deposits typically accumulate. Patients with Alzheimer's showed the most FDDNP binding, indicating a higher level of plaques and tangles than other subjects.

"We could see the definitive patterns starting early in patients with mild cognitive impairment and advancing in those with Alzheimer's disease," said Jorge Barrio, a study author and professor of medical and molecular pharmacology at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.

All subjects also received a PET brain scan using a more conventional chemical marker called FDG, which measures the metabolic function of cells and has previously been used in aiding diagnosis for Alzheimer's disease. However, FDG cannot identify the abnormal brain protein deposits that may cause the disease. In addition, 72 subjects received magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which show brain structure and size.

Scientists found that the FDDNP–PET scan combination differentiated between study subject groups better than the FDG–PET combination or the MRI.

"FDDNP yielded excellent diagnostic accuracy and precisely predicted disease progression and brain pathology accumulation," said Barrio. "FDDNP–PET also delivers the promise of new drug monitoring in human subjects for a more rapid introduction of therapeutic candidates to control or slow progression of the disease."

Researchers performed follow-up scans two years later on 12 research subjects, using FDDNP–PET. Patients whose conditions had grown worse -- declining from normal cognitive function to mild cognitive impairment or from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease -- showed a 5 to 11 percent increase in FDDNP binding over their previous brain scans, suggesting an increase in plaques and tangles.

A brain autopsy completed on a follow-up Alzheimer's patient who died 14 months later showed high plaque and tangle concentrations in areas that had previously demonstrated high FDDNP binding values on the PET scan. "This is the first time this pattern of plaque and tangle accumulation has been tracked in living humans over time in a longitudinal study," said Small.

The study was published in the Dec. 21 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. It was funded by National Institutes of Health,the Department of Energy, General Clinical Research Centers Program and numerous foundations. The DoE funds supported FDDNP synthesis, which was performed at the UCLA Cyclotron Laboratory.

UCLA researchers are now working with Siemens Medical to begin a clinical trial using the new molecular marker to obtain Food and Drug Administration approval. UCLA owns a patent on the approach and has licensed it to Siemens.

For more information, visit:

Alzheimer’s Disease What is it? Who gets it? What causes it?

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of a condition called dementia. It is named for the German doctor who first described it, Alois Alzheimer. What is it? Who gets it? What causes it?

Also see:

What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

Alzheimer’s Disease

What is it?

Alzheimer’s Disease What is it?  Who gets it?  What causes it?
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of a condition called dementia. Dementia is a general decline in mental ability, such as memory, language skills, judgment, and concentration. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means symptoms occur gradually and become worse over time. It is named for the German doctor who first described it, Alois Alzheimer.

Who gets it?

Alzheimer’s disease most commonly affects those over the age of 65, although it has been diagnosed in people in their 40s and 50s.

Huperzine A Factsheet (Alzheimer's)

I recently read about Huperzine A. The following page contains a fact sheet about the herb. Huperzine A may have cognition-enhancing activity in some Alzheimer's patients.


Americans Fear Alzheimer’s More Than Heart Disease, Diabetes or Stroke

A study by the MetLife Foundation found that Americans fear getting Alzheimer's disease more than heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. Alzheimer's ranks second in the minds of American's only to cancer.

Alzheimer's Reading Room

The survey reveals a mismatch between fear of Alzheimer’s and acting on that fear to prepare for the future.

With Alzheimer's, the Caregiver Is a Patient, Too

This is an interesting and thought provoking article that highlights the problems often effecting Alzheimer's caregivers.

With Alzheimer's, the Caregiver Is a Patient, Too

Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia do not affect just the patient. These diseases gradually rob patients of memory and other intellectual abilities, leaving them unable to perform routine tasks. As the disease continues to destroy brain cells, patients increasingly depend on family members or others to carry out simple tasks like shopping and getting dressed. Ultimately, most patients will need complete care, adding to the caregiver's burden.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting up to 4 million Americans - and untold millions of family members and others who care for them. Physicians now recognize that Alzheimer's caregivers themselves often require care and attention, says Diana R. Kerwin, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology.

"What we're seeing is that Alzheimer's is not a typical disease model," she says, "precisely because the health and well-being of the caretaker is affected as well as the patient. I know when I assume the care of an Alzheimer's patient, I am also caring for the caregiver."

Caregivers who accompany patients to the Froedtert Senior Health Program's Geriatric Evaluation Clinic, where Dr. Kerwin practices, are screened for "caregiver stress" and see a gerontologic nurse and social worker who will answer their questions, provide information and help create a plan for care of the patient. Caregivers are given a kit with information about support groups and community services, including adult day care, home care agencies, assisted living, skilled nursing facilities and respite care.

Stress, Depression Are Common
According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 80% of Alzheimer caregivers report that they frequently experience high levels of stress, and nearly half say they suffer from depression. It's not difficult to see why.

The national Family Caregiver Alliance terms caregiver depression "one of today's all-too-silent health crises." The alliance estimates that caregiving spouses between the ages of 66 and 96 who are experiencing mental or emotional strain have a 63% higher risk of dying than people the same age who are not caregivers.

"Alzheimer's causes progressive memory loss, and in the later stages patients can develop behavior problems," Dr. Kerwin says. "It's distressing for the caregiver to suddenly have to cope with their loved one's anger, hallucinations, paranoia, aggression or inappropriate conduct in public. It's upsetting when, as the disease progresses, the patient no longer recognizes the spouse or loved one."

Caregivers often experience feelings of guilt, believing they are not doing enough to help, she adds. Spouses and adult children feel grief and loss, not unlike a death in the family - except that instead of being sudden, it's spread out over years. Alzheimer's is a progressively worsening disease, but the rate of progression from mild to advanced can vary widely, from three to 20 years. As Alzheimer's progresses, the loss of brain function itself will cause death unless the patient has one or more other serious illness.

When the Child Becomes the Parent
For an adult child who cares for a parent with dementia, taking on the role of caregiver is a role reversal and takes some adjustment. "It can be a difficult transition for a child to take on the role of 'parent' and decision-maker," Dr. Kerwin says. "The child often needs to be empowered to step in and begin caring for their ailing parent - making sure their parent takes his or her medication, for instance, or telling their parent they should not drive, and making difficult decisions about when the parent is no longer able to safely live alone."

Those caregivers are often already juggling multiple responsibilities with their own spouses, children and careers. In some cases, adult-child caregivers with siblings feel resentful if they must bear the brunt of their parent's care, Dr. Kerwin says. If the adult-child caregiver is the only sibling living in the same city as the parent he or she often feels isolated, overwhelmed and underappreciated.

And sometimes, whether the caregiver is a spouse or an adult sibling, out-of-town siblings or other family members who see the parent infrequently may think the caregiver is exaggerating the extent of the Alzheimer's patient's decline. The out-of-town family members may feel guilty about not being able to help from a distance, and when they do visit, they may criticize or ask to change the care their parent is receiving.

Caregivers are often fatigued from carrying out their new responsibilities, Dr. Kerwin says. "I see them neglecting their own health. It's not unusual for caregivers to suffer not only depression but also higher levels of hypertension. We recommend they have annual physicals, during which they should be sure to tell their primary care physician that they are caregivers. We also recommend they participate in support groups and learn about the community resources available."

Other concerns caregivers regularly express are loss of concentration due to their caregiving responsibilities and fear that they themselves might eventually get the disease.

Warning Signs for Caregivers What are some warning signs of caregiver stress? According to the Alzheimer's Association, they include:

Health problems
Lack of concentration
Social withdrawal
Caregivers who regularly experience these conditions should seek help from their physician, says the Alzheimer's Association.

Financial Strain Heightens Burden
In some families, the presence of Alzheimer's disease also brings financial problems that can add to stress and depression. Caregivers sometimes give up paying jobs for the unpaid one of caring for a loved one. They often find additional responsibilities are thrust on them, such as overseeing medications for their patient, knowing if or when the patient's care should be transferred to a nursing home, and taking on power of attorney duties along with living wills and advanced directives that specify whether terminal patients should undergo extreme measures to keep them alive.

The national Family Caregiver Alliance estimates that approximately 80% of the long-term care in the United States is provided without compensation, sometimes around the clock.

"The responsibilities are vast," Dr. Kerwin notes. "It's important for caregivers to regularly take some time for themselves, away from their caring responsibilities."

Barbara Abel
HealthLink Contributing Writer

For more information on this topic, see the HealthLink articles End-Stage Alzheimer's - the Long Goodbye and Current Research on Alzheimer's, Memory Loss, and Aging.

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Bob DeMarco is the editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. Bob has written more than 1,050 articles with more than 8,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

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James Smith: I'm 46 Years Old, I can't have Alzheimer's

My doctors initially diagnosed it as possible depression. I accepted the diagnosis, and started taking the medications they prescribed. The medications didn’t change the symptoms, even after taking them for several months. Then they told me I had early onset Alzheimer's disease.

Blood Pressure Drug May Offset Alzheimer's

The drug, valsartin (Diovan), is widely prescribed to treat high blood pressure in elderly patients and was identified as being effective in preventing the build-up of beta-amyloid in the brain.

This article discusses the possibility that drugs currently being used to counter hypertension may help prevent cognitive decline. To read the article in its entirety follow the link, Blood Pressure Drug May Offset Alzheimer's Complication.

Dementia Factsheet (Alzheimer's Disease)

I ran across this dementia factsheet from the Milton S Hershey Medical Center. The section entitled,What are the Symptoms, is particularly interesting.

Alzheimer's and Aging

Alzheimer's and Aging

This MetLife website contains lots of useful information on Alzheimer's and Aging. It should be expecially useful to Baby Boomers and Caregivers.

You can also read more on Alzheimer's at the CareGiver.

The CareGiver Blog
Robert T DeMarco
AllAmerican Senior Care
AllAmerican Senior Care Weblog