What’s New in Alzheimer's Disease?

By Dayna Dye

Of all the potential losses that can occur with aging, the loss of mental function is one that is dreaded the most, and for good reason. Many of us imagine that we could cope with a gradual decline in physical abilities, but a disease like Alzheimer’s is very scary.

For most of us, the thought of losing memories and not recognizing people we love is simply unthinkable.

Good News for Alzheimer's from Obama

On February 8, the Obama Administration announced that its Fiscal Year 2013 budget will increase funding for Alzheimer's disease research by $80 million, while making an additional $50 million immediately available. This is very good news.

The National Alzheimer's Project Act, signed into effect in January last year, established an Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care and Services, bringing together a number of experts to develop a National Alzheimer's Disease Plan. One of the goals of this plan is the ability to prevent and treat the disease by 2025. This is more good news.

But there’s a problem. While the plan is a good start, most people who suffer from the disease now will not survive to 2025. Although Alzheimer's disease patients can live up to 20 years after diagnosis, most die within four to 10 years. For those who live longer, their years are often characterized by incapacitation, incurring significant financial costs and caregiver burden.

What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown. Here’s what we do know:

  • The loss of cognitive function is attributed to the accumulation of abnormal protein plaques known as amyloid beta.
  • These plaques are often associated with what neurologists call neurofibrillary tangles formed inside nerve cells. These tangles are caused by another abnormal protein called the tau protein.
  • A genetic mutation (APO-e gene) occurs in 40%–65% of Alzheimer's disease patients, yet many who have a copy of this variant never develop Alzheimer's. Doctors aren’t sure what to make of this mutation.1
The good news is that even though we don’t understand the disease completely, some effective treatments are in the pipeline.

Treating Alzheimer’s Disease Today

Now this is something to really think about: A major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is type 2 diabetes. In fact, Alzheimer's disease has been called "diabetes of the brain." Insulin resistance that occurs in the brain's cells or a decrease in the brain's own production of insulin leads to glucose-starved brain cells and other adverse effects.

A review of intranasal insulin in healthy subjects and those with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease concluded a benefit for cognitive function in association with low dose treatment.2

And a primate study described in the December, 2006 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Diseaserevealed a reduction in amyloid beta in squirrel monkeys who consumed calorie restricted diets — a technique that can also reduce type 2 diabetes risk.

There’s also a lot of evidence mounting for optimizing vitamin D blood levels. Among them is a protective effect on cognitive function. Research published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease4 explores a mechanism for both an active form of vitamin D known as 1-alpha-25-hydroxyvitamin D3 and a synthetic form of curcumin in clearing the brain of amyloid beta.

And lastly, in what may be very promising in humans, scientists at Case Western Reserve University found that the cancer drug bexarotene eliminated amyloid beta by as much as 75% in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Because the drug has already been tested for safety in humans, clinical trials could begin soon.5

Tomorrow’s Alzheimer's Treatments

Other new research in mice includes a study conducted at MIT which found that blocking the enzyme histone deacetylase-2 (HDAC2), which is elevated in the hippocampi of mice with Alzheimer's symptoms, reawakened dysfunctional neurons and improved cognitive function.

In this research, Alzheimer's disease mice in which HDAC2 was silenced performed similarly to normal mice after four weeks.6 However, lead researcher Li-Huei Tsai predicts that clinical trials of HDAC2 inhibitors could be five years away.

These promising avenues of investigation deserve full exploration as soon as possible. The rapid aging of many areas of the globe and the rising cost of health care may soon vastly increase the social burden of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

Many innovative doctors believe that our brains are "us." Preserving the health of our brains and those of our loved ones ought to be one of our number one priorities.



Want to read more on this topic? Give our detailed health protocol on Alzheimer's Disease a look.

Want to take part in a study we're sponsoring in Florida for individuals diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease? Click here to learn more.

References

  1. Int J Neurol. 1991-1992;25-26:41-51.
  2. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Feb;97(2):366-76.
  3. J Alzheimers Dis. 2006 Dec;10(4):417-22.
  4. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012 Jan 1;29(1):51-62.
  5. Science. 2012 Feb 9 (another Epub ahead of print.)
  6. Nature.2012 Feb 9.

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4 comments:

Keith Townsend said...

Great article! Very interesting to see the developments here. Thank you very much!

Amy said...

As a nurse who has been caring for the elderly population since 1992, I have seen advances in treatment, but not much.
The utilization of Vitamin D is promising, and hopefully our medical community will find more ways to enhance quality of care, instead of just prolonging life.

Anna said...

Thank you for sharing this to us! Really nice post!Keep posting!

Life Extension said...

We’re really glad that you liked it, Anna. Thanks for reading!

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