Dementia in the News

When MIT biology professor Leonard Guarente started looking for the Fountain of Youth through this microscope more than a decade ago, compatriots were hard to come by.

"Even my own colleagues thought I was nuts," said Guarente, whose studies of the metabolic pathways in yeast cells might lead to drugs that reverse and prevent aging. "But the scientific community has done a complete 180 in the past 20 years."

Senator Charles Schumer is pushing legistation to create a nationwide network for locating missing adults and senior citizens with Alzheimer's, dementia and other mental impairments.

A breakthrough discovery by scientists from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL, may lead to a new treatment for Alzheimer's disease that actually removes amyloid plaques - considered a hallmark of the disease - from patients' brains.

This discovery, published online in the FASEB Journal, is based on the unexpected finding that when the brain's immune cells (microglia) are activated by the interleukin-6 protein (IL-6), they actually remove plaques instead of causing them or making them worse. The research was performed in a model of Alzheimer's disease established in mice.

OMG, the Oxford-based company behind the motion-capture technology used in Hollywood films, is preparing to launch a device designed to help Alzheimer's disease sufferers cope with memory loss.

The UK company has signed a license with software giant Microsoft to use its SenseCam technology to launch a wearable camera that automatically takes digital photos of the patient's day. The images taken by the device, which is smaller and lighter than an iPod, can then be viewed to reinforce the patient's memories.

Researchers in several countries are beginning to explore new uses for digital technology in treating Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia and the University of Toronto is playing an important part.

Devices resulting from this line of inquiry are sometimes known as "cognitive prosthetics", a name intended to communicate their true ability:  Not rehabilitation, merely assistance. Dementias, including Alzheimer's, remain incurable.

The ability to perceive relationships between objects (visuospatial skills) may decline years before a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.

It included 444 people who were dementia-free when they were enrolled in the study and underwent tests on a number of cognitive abilities, including visuospatial skills. The assessments were repeated at least once before the end of the study. After an average follow-up of 5.9 years, 134 participants had developed dementia. Of those, 44 underwent brain autopsies that confirmed they had Alzheimer's disease.

Two articles in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease -- by Dr. Chris Exley, Reader in Bioinorganic Chemistry in the Research Institute for the Environment, Physical Sciences and Applied Mathematics at Keele University, UK, and Dr. Zhao-Feng Jiang, of Beijing Union University, Beijing, China -- have confirmed a potentially protective role for copper in Alzheimer's disease.

Previous research has shown that copper is one component of the amyloid beta plaques which are found in the brains of people of Alzheimer's disease.

The action of a small protein that is a major villian in Alzheimer's disease can be counterbalanced with another brain protein, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found in an animal study.

The findings, available online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest a promising new tactic against the devastating illness, the researchers said.

One early summer Saturday, Ted Clapp, a retired minister and psychologist, invited about twenty of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to lunch at his place north of Portland, Maine. He had set out some family treasures - including arrowheads found on his grandfather's farm, watercolor paintings by some "ancient ancestor," an antique trumpet, and his great-grandfather's sword - that he'd collected over his ninety years.

The surgeon who removed the five-year-old boy's tonsils in 1959 had never seen anything like them. Instead of pinkish lobes, the boy's tonsils were huge and orange. Thinking that their extraordinary appearance might signal a rare malignancy, the surgeon sent the tonsils to the Armed Forces Pathology Institute in Washington, DC. Though researchers there found no cancer, they did discover the reason for the tissue's abnomal size and color:  Its cells were bloated with cholesterol.

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