Alzheimer’s researchers have uncovered a surprising clue linked to whether someone is likely to develop the disease later in life. A study published in the latest issue of Science finds that the brains of people at greatest genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s show less activity in a network of neurons that serve as our internal navigation system – known as “grid cells.”
Aging societies have been on the horizon for decades, not just in the United States but also around the world. The driving forces are well-established: falling fertility rates (by far, the most important factor), longer life expectancy, and the maturing of large cohorts such as the baby boomers in the U.S.
Proteins can fold in different ways depending on their environment. These different configurations change the function of the protein; misfolding is frequently associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
They’ve heard the stark facts, that every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease, that the numbers of Americans with the illness may nearly triple by 2050, that there still is no cure.
But this is what many in the gathering Wednesday at Massachusetts General Hospital wanted to know: What are researchers doing to help the millions of people living with the brain-robbing illness right now? Is anyone paying attention to their intense feelings of isolation, and of being shunned?
MIT researchers are developing a computer system that uses genetic, demographic, and clinical data to help predict the effects of disease on brain anatomy.
In experiments, they trained a machine-learning system on MRI data from patients with neurodegenerative diseases and found that supplementing that training with other patient information improved the system’s predictions. In the cases of patients with drastic changes in brain anatomy, the additional data cut the predictions’ error rate in half, from 20 percent to 10 percent.
On behalf of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I am pleased to present our first Professional Judgment Budget, commonly referred to as a Bypass Budget, for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. This plan for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 outlines the optimal approach NIH would take in an ideal world unconstrained by fiscal limitations to make real and lasting progress against this devastating group of disorders.
Fibrous protein clumps known as amyloids are most often associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, where they form characteristic plaques in the brain.
Scientists first described amyloids about 150 years ago; they have since been tagged as key players in Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as Alzheimer’s. However, recent findings suggest that this class of proteins may also have critical biological functions in healthy cells.
Add another notch to the evidence that an unhealthy heart can harm the brain. In the September 21 JAMA Neurology, researchers led by M. Arfan Ikram of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, report that having atrial fibrillation, a common cardiovascular disease in older adults, was associated with an elevated risk of developing dementia over the next 20 years.
We talk a lot these days about what constitutes a good way to die. There’s also much discussion about the art of healthy aging.
But largely absent from the conversation are all the people between the two. People who aren’t dying but who grow more frail. People who have significant health concerns. People who suddenly find themselves in need of care.