Dementia in the News

Today, the call for increased Alzheimer's research funding from Alzheimer's Association advocates reached a critical milestone, as the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee announced a proposed $400 million increase for Alzheimer's research at the NIH. This bipartisan effort was led by Alzheimer's champions Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who also oversaw last year's historic funding increase.

Could it be that Alzheimer’s disease stems from the toxic remnants of the brain’s attempt to fight off infection?

Provocative new research by a team of investigators at Harvard leads to this startling hypothesis, which could explain the origins of plaque, the mysterious hard little balls that pockmark the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

Dorene Rentz, one of 
the local neuropsychologists behind a pioneering Alzheimer’s study, spends her days searching for 
answers in the mysterious plaques that invade the brains of those suffering from the incurable disease.

And Rentz’s search will take on a new sense of urgency in the coming months, as the study gains a key participant: her husband.

“He sees some of his own forgetfulness, and it’s frustrating for him,” Rentz said of her 70-year-old husband, Ray Berggren. “It happens almost daily.”

MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL IS THE MOST PROLIFIC HEALTHCARE ORGANISATION PUBLISHING IN TOP JOURNALS

Epilepsies are a spectrum of brain disorders in which surges of electrical activity in clusters of brain cells cause seizures. At least 2.3 million adults and nearly 500,000 children in the U.S. live with some form of epilepsy. Partial, or focal, seizures occur in just one part of the brain. In temporal lobe epilepsy, the most common form of the disorder in adults, seizures usually begin in the hippocampus, a brain structure essential for memory. People with this form of epilepsy often experience memory impairments.

Last week, Rudolph Tanzi was laying down keyboard tracks at Johnny Depp’s L.A. music studio for Joe Perry’s soon-to-be-released solo album. This past week, he launched a new app for Alzheimer’s patients.

Tanzi, of course, knows what an important role music plays in the brain - the trained jazz pianist is one of the country’s top Alzheimer’s researchers and a neurology professor at Harvard. About five years ago, while recording music and looking for new ways to bring music therapy to Alzheimer’s patients, he stumbled upon something greater than a catchy tune.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. It is a biological disease marked by physical changes in the brain—most notably buildup of small protein clumps called plaques and tangles - that lead to the death of nerve cells. The cell death usually starts in specific regions of the brain and then spreads to others; as cells die, functions controlled by those areas fade and ultimately disappear, resulting in characteristic signs and symptoms at each stage of the disease.

This Forum explored the challenges and complexities of drug trials, and how they impact disease treatment and prevention -  particularly for conditions that currently have little or no therapeutic options. As a case study, the panel discussed Alzheimer’s and several drugs in development for that disease, but also addressed broader concerns related to the pharmaceutical testing pipeline for unmet medical needs as a whole. This event was presented in partnership with HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, in collaboration with STAT, and in association with NOVA.

The latest in a recent spate of books and movies that have brought Alzheimer’s to a broader public, a new NOVA documentary ow explores what it takes to go from basic research to treatment trials. In her film “Can Alzheimer’s Be Stopped?” three-time Emmy award and AAAS Science Journalism award-winning producer Sarah Holt tells the story of Alzheimer’s research. Her film conveys the challenges and staggering cost of research and personalizes the emotional toll Alzheimer’s takes on patients, caregivers, and even researchers.

On a recent flight from San Francisco back to Boston, I found myself seated between my 28-year-old daughter Colleen and the emergency hatch. When the attendant had asked if I could perform the duties, I shrugged and simply said I was afraid of heights. I forgot about the confusion part. I forgot why doctors don’t let me travel alone any more. Alzheimer’s will do that.

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