Dementia in the News

Laboratories at the University of New Mexico (UNM), Brown University, and House Ear Institute (HEI) have developed a new technique to observe herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) infections growing inside cells. HSV1, the cause of the common cold sore, persists in a latent form inside nerve cells. Re-activation and growth of HSV1 infections contribute to cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease. Details are published in the March 31 issue of PLoS ONE magazine from the Public Library of Science.

The two largest studies of Alzheimer's disease, an international analysis of genes of more than 50,000 people, have led to the discovery of five new genes that make the disease more likely in the elderly and provide tantalizing clues about what might start Alzheimer’s going and fuel its progress in a person’s brain.

The new genes add to a possible theme: so far genes that increase Alzheimer’s risk in the elderly tend to be involved with cholesterol and with inflammation. They also may be used to transport molecules inside cells.

Brian Vincent hadn't gone on a vacation in a year. Since taking over management of the family's grocery store, even a sick day was rare.

Is the human brain, with all its problem-solving prowess and creative ability, powerful enough to understand itself? Nothing in the known universe (with the exception of the universe itself) is more complex; the brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons, each of which can communicate with thousands of other brain cells.

ABOUT THIS REPORT
2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures provides a statistical resource for U.S. data related to Alzheimer's Disease, the most common type of dementia, as well as other dementias. Background and context for interpretation of the data are contained in the Overview. This information includes definitions of the types of dementia and a summary of current knowledge about Alzheimer's disease. Additional sections address prevalence, mortality, caregiving and use and costs of care and services.

When Alzheimer's disease actually starts is often not clear, but it now appears that it may be preceded by rapid cognitive decline for up to six years before it becomes evident, a new study suggests.

This accelerated deterioration in memory and other mental function is not seen in people who do not develop Alzheimer's disease, the researchers said.

"Alzheimer's disease has a much longer course and affects substantially more people than generally recognized," said lead researcher Robert S. Wilson, a senior neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago.

The brain is a black box. A complex circuitry of neurons fires information through channels, much like the inner workings of a computer chip. But while computer processors are regimented with the deft economy of an assembly line, neural circuits are impenetrable masses. Think tumbleweed.

Researchers in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School have developed a technique for unraveling these masses. Through a combination of microscopy platforms, researchers can crawl through the individual connections composing a neural network, much as Google crawls web links.

William Gonzalez's world collapsed when his wife of more than 50 years was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease four years ago. The 78-year-old Cuban immigrant knew little about the scourge that was gradually robbing his wife of a lifetime of memories.

Today, the Air Force veteran struggles to run his home in Davie, Fla., while serving as sole caretaker for his 74-year-old wife Aida.

Scientists in the United States have managed to turn human embryonic stem cells into a type of brain cell linked to memory loss in Alzheimer's disease. The research,  published in the journal Stem Cells, should help in the development and testing of potential new medicines to treat the neurodegenerative disease which affects around half a million people in the UK.

People with an immediate family history of Alzheimer's disease are four to 10 times as likely to contract the condition. A new study now suggests the chances of getting Alzheimer's are higher if your mother had it than if your father had it.

Jeffrey Burns, the director of the University of Kansas Medical Center's Alzheimer's and Memory Program, said the findings don't mean that children of mothers with Alzheimer's disease will develop the condition. "It's not clear on an individual basis how much this risk applies," he said.

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