Dementia in the News

Repression of certain gene activity in the brain appears to be an early event affecting people with Alzheimer's disease, a new study found. In mouse models of Alzheimer's disease, this blockage and its effet on memory were treatable.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults. It affects as many as 5.1 million Americans. A hallmark of the disease is the accumulation of a toxic protein fragment called beta-amyloid in brain nerve cells (neurons). Preventing the cognitive problems that result has been a major medical challenge.

More and more retired people are heading back to the nearest classroom - as students and, in some cases, teachers - and they are finding out that school can be lovelier the second time around. Some may be thinking of second careers, but most just want to keep their minds stimulated, learn something new or catch up with a subject they were always curious about but never had time for.

The association of the inhaled anesthetic isoflurane with Alzheimer's-disease-like changes in mammalian brains may be caused by the drug's effects on mitochondria, the structures in which most cellular energey is produced.

INTRODUCTION

Alzheimer's disease is an age-related brain disorder that gradually destroys a person's ability to remember, think, learn, and carry out even the simplest of tasks. Alzheimer's is a type of dementia, a broad term for diseases and conditions that damage brain cells and, over time, impair brain function. Alzheimer's is associated with the breakdown of connections between brain cells, or neurons, and their eventual death.

Airborne pollution can have serious consequences for the brain and the heart even at typical levels of exposure, according to the results of two studies published in the Feb 13 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

In one analysis, researchers led by Gregory Wellenius, ScD, of Brown University in Providence, R.I., found that short-term exposure to fine particulate matter - even at levels allowed by the EPA - can increase the risk of ischemic stroke.

The Obama administration plans to spend an additional $156 million over the next two years to help find an effective treatment for Alzheimer's, a fatal brain-wasting disease that affects more than 5 million Americans.

The White House said on Tuesday it will spend an extra $50 million this year, and it will seek an extra $80 million in fiscal 2013 to bolster Alzheimer's research. Obama also plans to spend an additional $26 million in programs to support people who care for Alzheimer's patients.

Alzheimer's disease seems to spread like an infection from brain cell to brain cell, two new studies in mice have found. But instead of viruses or bacteria, what is being spread is a distorted protein known as tau.

The surprising finding answers a longstanding question and has immediate implications for developing treatments, researchers said. And they suspect that other degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson's may spread in a similar way.

I love unexpected history, in unexpected places. For instance, I always regretted that Route 128 and Silicon Valley weren't more history-minded, until former Digital Equipment Corp. executive Gordon Bell addressed that problem. He and his wife, Gwen, birthed our Computer Museum, which morphed into the bigger-deal Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

In this vein, an interesting specialty museum is about to open in the heart of Boston:  The Paul S. Russell, MD, Museum of Medical History and Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital.

DEAR FRIENDS

We are proud of our many accomplishments over the past year and we are very appreciative of your support. In this report, you will meet a New Hampshire couple grappling with younger-onset Alzheimer's; a Massachusetts family that has engaged as effective advocates; a man who has set up a special trust to honor his father and support our cause; and a couple who are managing the care of an elderly parent.

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