Dementia in the News

When it comes to understanding a disease as complex as Alzheimer's, the more the better - genes, that is. In September, 15 years since the last discovery of its kind, scientists finally identified a new set of genes that may contribute to the memory-robbing disorder. Two groups of researchers, working separately, homed in on three genes linked to the late-onset form of the disease, the type that hits people in their 60s or later and accounts for 90% of Alzheimer's cases in the US.

More than half of HIV patients experience memory problems and other cognitive impairments as they age, and doctors know little about the underlying causes. New research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests HIV-related cognitive deficits share a common link with Alzheimer's-related dementia:  Low levels of the protein amyloid beta in the spinal fluid.

A major discovery is challenging accepted thinking about amyloids -- the fibrous protein deposits associated with diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's -- and may open up a potential new area for therapeutics.

It was believed that amyloid fibrils -- rope-like structures made up of proteins sometimes known as fibres -- are inert, but there may be toxic phases during their formation which can damage cells and cause disease.

Stimulating the growth of new neurons to replace those lost in Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is an intriguing therapeutic possibility. But will the factors that cause AD allow the new neurons to thrive and function normally? Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease (GIND) have discovered that two main causes of AD amyloid-beta (aβ) peptides and apolipoprotein E4 (apoE4) impair the growth of new neurons born in adult brains.

The research group of Professor Magdalena Gotz of Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat (LMU) Munich has made a significant advance in understanding regenerating processes in the brain. The researchers discovered progenitor cells which can form new glutamatergic neurons following injury to the cerebral cortex. Particularly in Alzheimer's disease, nerve cell degeneration plays a crucial role. In the future, new therapeutic options may possibly be derived from steering the generation and/or migration mechanism.

Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) researchers have confirmed that a diet rich in polyphenols and polyunsaturated fatty acids, patented as an LMN diet, helps to boost the production of the brain's stem cells - neurogenesis - and strengthens their differentiation in different types of neuron cells.

Alzheimer's disease is thought to be caused by the build-up of a brain peptide called amyloid-beta. That's why eliminating the protein has been the focus of almost all drug research pursuing a cure for the devastating neurodegenerative condition.

But that may be counterproductive, says Dr. Inna Slutsky of Tel Aviv University's Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine. Her recent research demonstrates that amyloid-beta is also necessary to maintain proper brain function.

These findings may shake the foundations of Alzheimer's research.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine set out to address a question that has been challenging scientists for years:  How do dietary restriction -- and the reverse, overconsumption -- produce protective effects against aging and disease?

Coffee, in excess is traditionally considered to be unhealthy, as it can lead to irritability, dehydration, and a jump in blood pressure. According to a study released in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease however, drinking three to five cups a day has shown to reduce the risk of contracting Alzheimer's disease by as much as 65%.

Doctors who specialize in treating the elderly are calling on the nation's medical schools to require all students to demonstrate competence in treating senior citizens, a change in century-old teaching standards.

With the first of the 78 million baby boomers nearing retirement age, the American Geriatrics Society is proposing that elder care be added to the list of six core areas that have long been the focus of medical school training.

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