Dementia in the News

Steve Riedner of Schaumberg, Ill., was a 55-year-old tool-and-die maker, a job that involves difficult mental calculations, and a frequent speaker at community meetings when he found himself increasingly at a loss for words and unable to remember numbers. He even began to have difficulty reading his own written comments.

The neurologist he consulted thought Mr. Riedner had suffered a stroke and for three years treated him with cholesterol-lowering medication. But instead of his language ability stabilizing or improving, as should happen following a stroke, it got worse.

On Sunday, May 1st, CNN will air the first Larry King special, premiering at 8pm ET/PT and will be titled "Unthinkable:  The Alzheimer's Epidemic." It's being called the disease of the 21st century as an estimated 5.4 million people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It is the sixth-leading cause of death across all ages in the United States, but many Americans still do not know much about this illness. The one-hour special will look into Alzheimer's disease, who gets it and why, the race to find effective treatments and a possible cure.

For the first time in 27 years, the definition of Alzheimer's disease is being recast in new medical guidelines that reflect fast-mounting evidence that it begins ravaging the brain years before the symptoms of dementia.

The brain areas affected by Alzheimer's disease start shrinking up to a decade before symptoms like memory loss appear, according to new brain imaging research. The discovery, which adds to growing evidence that Alzheimer's is a slowly emerging disease, could help scientists identify people at risk before the damage is done.

Scientists improved the cognitive ability of adult mice by boosting the survival of newborn neurons in the brain's memory hub. Enhancing the survival of these cells, when combined with exercise, produced antidepresseant effects as well. The findings may open up new avenues for treating cognitive, mood and anxiety disorders.

Oxford University scientists have developed a new method for delivering complex drugs directly to the brain, a necessary step for treating diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Motor Neuron Disease and Muscular Dystrophy.

These diseases have largely resisted attempts to over the last 50 years develop new treatments, partly because of the difficulty of getting effective new drugs to the brain to slow or halt disease progression.

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.

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