Dementia in the News

Venture capitalists are known for making bold bets on high-risk projects that have the potential for huge payoffs. Today, driven by that vision, a group of business leaders who founded the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund (CAF) to find a cure for this disease are seeing important returns on their investment in research at Mass General and beyond.

The scientific results the CAF support has brought about are nothing short of game changing as Mass General researchers resolve some long-unanswered questions about how Alzheimer’s disease develops.

Although natural selection is often thought of as a force that determines the adaptation of replicating organisms to their environment, Harvard researchers have found that selection also occurs at the level of neurons, which are post-mitotic cells, and plays a critical role in the emergence of Alzheimer’s disease.

Banked brain tissue enables crucial advances in the understanding and treatment of degenerative disorders. As appreciation of the many different variants of neurodegenerative disease is growing, well-preserved tissue is in more demand than ever. Are the brain banks up to the task? Modern banks are harmonizing protocols, combining their inventories in online listings, and maintaining databases of detailed longitudinal data. At the same time, these institutions face funding shortfalls that threaten continued progress.

Our susceptibility to disease depends both on the genes that we inherit from our parents and on our lifetime experiences. These two components - nature and nurture - seem to affect very different processes in the context of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published today in the journal Nature.

In 2010, a graduate student named Tamar Gefen got to know a remarkable group of older people.

They had volunteered for a study of memory at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. Although they were all over age 80, Ms. Gefen and her colleagues found that they scored as well on memory tests as people in their 50s. Some complained that they remembered too much.

She and her colleagues referred to them as SuperAgers. Many were also friends. “A couple tried to set me up with their grandsons,” Ms. Gefen said.

A report issued Thursday on the financial impact of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States warns that it could soar to more than $1 trillion a year by 2050, with much of it borne by the federal government, unless action is taken to shift current trends.

Increasingly, big data is changing life’s game board.

As technology evolves and becomes further integrated into society, massive amounts of data are being collected and stored. From the app on your cellphone to the swipe of your credit card to the systems that monitor everyday activities, data is endlessly transmitted and interpreted. With supercomputers within easy reach and storage infinitely scalable, researchers now have the power and resources not just to collect data, but to analyze it and make important discoveries.

The EPAD project has announced the start of a novel collaboration between 35 academic and private sector partners from Europe and the US to test innovative treatments for the prevention of Alzheimer’s dementia.

EPAD is mainly sponsored by the European Commission and the European pharmaceutical industry (via EFPIA) under the auspices of the Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking (IMI JU). The EPAD programme has an initial budget of €64m distributed across a total of 35 partners from the private and academic sectors

Latinos are the fastest growing population in the United States, projected to grow by the U.S. Census Bureau to approximately 129 million in 2060.

The older Latino population is expected to triple by 2050, growing from 6 percent of older adults in 2003 to 18 percent within the next four decades. Health experts are projecting that Latinos are disproportionately represented in the older age groups most at risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Louise will never forget the day her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at Massachusetts General Hospital. Louise knew her mother shouldn't be driving any more, but the older woman had always been a strong, astute businesswoman. "When she was unable to tell time on the clock that is part of the mental status exam, I couldn't believe it was my mother," she says.

Syndicate content