Dementia in the News

At first glance, it’s hard to tell what’s wrong with Keiko Sawada.

“I don’t hate being alone, but I do feel lonely at times,” Sawada, a sociable and talkative woman, said during a recent visit to her one-room apartment in Nakano Ward, Tokyo. “Of course I’m worried about what will happen to me in the future. I’m 85, after all.”

As casual exchanges continue, however, it becomes increasingly clear the former bar hostess has serious memory problems.

Dvastating brain diseases like Frontotemporal Dementia and Alzheimer’s have been painfully slow to give up their secrets.  But behavioral neurologist Brad Dickerson, MD, and his Mass General research team are tracking an important protein that has long eluded measurement in the living brain.  Their work may mark a turning point in how such now-incurable conditions are understood and treated.

NIH Reports to the Nation
NIH is pleased to present the 2014-2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Progress Report: Advancing Research Toward a Cure. This annual report details NIH-supported and -conducted Alzheimer’s disease research initiatives, objectives, and advances during calendar year 2014 and early 2015. New findings and investments described in this report are organized in categories determined by the Common Alzheimer Disease Research Ontology (CADRO) of the International Alzheimer’s Disease Research Portfolio (IADRP).

MIT chemical engineers and neuroscientists have developed a new way to classify neurons by labeling and imaging the proteins found in each cell. This type of imaging offers clues to each neuron’s function and should help in mapping the human brain, the researchers say.

Scientists say they've found a network of genes and their subsequent mutations that either speed up or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. The finding results from a study carried out within a Colombian extended family of 5,000 people descended from one Spaniard. Lead researcher Dr Maurice Arcos-Burgos from the Australian National University in Canberra says that some of the people contracted the disease in their 30s, other developed it in their 70s. The scientist told Newsday how the mutating genes work.

Rudolph E. Tanzi, director of the genetics and aging research unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and a towering figure in the field of Alzheimer’s research, refuses to play the piano. Yes, he’s an exuberantly dedicated musician who seriously considered a musical career before going into science. He’s played keyboards with the rock band Aerosmith and jammed on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” He practices every day at home on his handmade Bösendorfer concert grand.

Health care costs can rise dramatically as we age - especially for those who develop long-term conditions like heart disease or dementia. In the United States, most medical costs for people over age 65 are covered by Medicare, a federal health insurance program. But Medicare and other insurers may not cover key expenses, like home care services, medical equipment, and certain nursing home fees. Little has been known about the personal financial toll that end-of-life care can place on people with chronic disorders.

The National Institutes of Health has launched a new initiative to identify biomarkers and track the progression of Alzheimer’s in people with Down syndrome. Many people with Down syndrome have Alzheimer’s-related brain changes in their 30s that can lead to dementia in their 50s and 60s. Little is known about how the disease progresses in this vulnerable group.

While he couldn't possibly have known, Sandy Halperin was likely around 35 years old when his brain began slowly accumulating the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer's disease.

Building on earlier work in which they disproved neurobiology dogma by “reprogramming” neurons - turning one form of neuron into another - in the brains of living animals, Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers have now shown that the networks of communication among reprogrammed neurons and their neighbors can also be changed, or “rewired.”

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