Dementia in the News

Scientists have turned back the clock in mice they engineered to age faster than normal, an advance they suggest is the first time aging in mice has been reversed.

Researchers at Harvard-affiliated medical centers genetically manipulated mice to age faster, and then used gene therapy to lengthen telomeres - compounds found at the ends of strands of DNA - which reversed age-related problems such as decreased brain function and infertility.

Three studies presented Monday at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting use imaging techniques to show how exercise can affect our bodies and brains.

Walking may slow cognitive decline in adults diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease, as well as benefiting brains of healthy adults.

They were stooped, hobbled, disoriented, fumbling around the house. They got confused in the bathtub and struggled up stairs that seemed to swim before them.

“Oh, it hurts,” said Noh Hyun-ho, sinking to the ground.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Yook Seo-hyun.

In the basement of Harvard Law School's Hemenway Gymnasium, a battle of ages is being waged.

A drug used decades ago to treat high blood pressure has been shown to improve learning and memory in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study by researchers at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study found that the drug, diazoxide, acted on nerve cells in the mouse brain in ways that slowed the development of the neurodegenerative disorder. The findings appear in the Nov 15 2010 print edition of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Bruce Vincent works his way up and down the aisles of the grocery store he has owned for two decades, methodically unpacking crates of food, stocking shelves, and breaking down the empty cartons.

Midway down aisle 2, Vincent hesitates, unsure where the fudge-coated peanuet butter cookies go. The redesigned package throws him, so he tucks them amid crackers on the top shelf and continues down the row.

"Who are you?" Tracy Mobley asked, he recalled.

"Mom, are you joking with me or what?"

"No," she replied. She was adamant. "Who are you?"

It's a gnawing fear that one fateful day, the memories of aging parents will fade and they won't be able to recognize their own children.

For Austin, it started early, He was 6.

Austin is in an emerging generation of young caretakers of parents who have dementia.

Much of the research on Alzheimer's next year will be about going back in time, trying to determine when and how the brain begins to deteriorate.

Renee Packel used to have a typical suburban life. Her husband, Arthur, was a lawyer and also sold insurance. They lived in a town house just outside Philadelphia, and Mrs. Packel took care of their home and family.

One day, it all came crashing down. The homeowners’ association called asking for their fees. To Mrs. Packel’s surprise, her husband had simply stopped paying them. Then she learned he had stopped writing checks to his creditors, too.

OUR government is ignoring what is likely to become the single greatest threat to the health of Americans: Alzheimer’s disease, an illness that is 100 percent incurable and 100 percent fatal. It attacks rich and poor, white-collar and blue, and women and men, without regard to party. A degenerative disease, it steadily robs its victims of memory, judgment and dignity, leaves them unable to care for themselves and destroys their brain and their identity — often depleting their caregivers and families both emotionally and financially.

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