Showing posts with label dementia research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dementia research. Show all posts

Monday, March 14, 2016

Stanford Research on Alzheimers

Many experts believe that if someone lives long enough, it is virtually inevitable they will develop some type of dementia, most likely Alzheimer's.  While many of us express the desire to live a long, healthy, active life, very few of us like the idea that Alzheimer's will be a part of that scenario.

The University of California - Irvine has been studying people who are 90+ or the "oldest of the old" for over 30 years, and the results of their research has been included in this blog.  Meanwhile, Stanford University and several other well-known research universities have been doing their own research on Alzheimer's and dementia.

Dr. Frank Longo, chairman of the Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University, heads up their research into treatments for Alzheimer's.  So far, although over 200 Alzheimer's drugs have been developed and tested in the U.S. since 2000, none of them have proven successful at stopping or reversing this disease. In a few cases, some of the drugs have shown a little promise in relieving the worst problems related to memory loss and confusion.  However, much more needs to be done.

Dr. Longo is frustrated by their limited success.  He reports, "My biggest frustration is that we've cured Alzheimer's in mice many times.  Why can't we move that success to people?"

Longo is now studying a drug known as LM11A-31 (or C31) that shows promise.  Rather than trying to erase the plaques of amyloid that seems to be present in most cases of Alzheimer's, this drug attempts to keep brain cells strong enough that, hopefully, they will be protected against neurological onslaughts, whether they are caused by amyloids or other factors.  This is a new, but important approach, because about 30 percent of people over 70 have amyloid in their brains but no signs of dementia.  In addition to amyloids, another Alzheimer's related protein is called tau.  Tau usually appears in the late stages when memory, organized thinking, and language have already begun to decline.

Approximately 1/3 of Americans over the age of 85 already are afflicted with Alzheimer's.  Around the world, 50 million people are living with some form of dementia.  Within 20 years, that number is expected to double.  Within three years, the global cost of caring for people with dementia could reach over $1 trillion.

Doctors are now able to do brain scans that can identify whether or not someone has amyloid deposits or tau in the brain.  However, they do not have a way to remove either problem, even if they see it in the scan.  That is why Longo's drug, C31, could be game changing.  If this drug is able to successfully slow down or stop the deterioration of nerve cells, it could enable doctors to prevent some of the damage caused by the amyloid in the brain. In mice, this drug has even been able to reverse some of the damage that has already been done ... although researchers are not sure if it can restore lost memory.

Other avenues of research are also being pursued.  For example, researchers at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center have discovered that people who have higher levels of a nerve-growth factor called BDNF tend to retain their cognitive functions longer, even when amyloid builds up.  Those who have the most BDNF saw a 50 percent slower rate of cognitive decline.  So far, there are no drugs that will boost a person's BDNF levels, although that is another avenue of exploration.

While more research needs to be done, these studies at Stanford and other locations are encouraging.

You may also want to read more about the University of California at Irvine's 90+ Study on the Oldest of the Old.


"Alzheimer's From a New Angle," Time Magazine, Feb. 29, 2016.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

UCI Study on the Brains of the Very Elderly

The University of California at Irvine has been engaged for the past decade in a landmark study aimed at understanding why some of the very elderly are able to stay mentally and physically healthy well into their 90's and beyond.  The results of this research could benefit millions of Baby Boomers who are just beginning to reach retirement age.

The study is being conducted by UCI neurologist Claudia Kawas and epidemiologist Maria Corrada.  It is called the 90+ Study.  It began in 2003 when Kawas and Corrada went to UCI after leaving Johns Hopkins University.

However, the real beginning of this research was in 1981 when a University of Southern California research team mailed 14,000 questionnaires out to residents of the Leisure World retirement community in Orange County, California (now renamed Laguna Woods).  Kawas and Corrada are using the information gleaned on that questionnaire and have set about contacting as many of the people who originally completed it, as possible. Many of them, of course, died over the years.

However, when Kawas and Corrada found someone who was still alive and at least 90 years old, they invited them to join their 90+ Study.  Most were eager to do so.  Participants agree to have their blood tested twice a year, demonstrate their mental acuity by doing things like counting backwards from 100 by 3's, and donate their brains to the researchers when they die.

About one-third of the people in the study have dementia, but the other two-thirds do not.  Kawas and Corrada hope to learn why.  The National Institute on Aging recently awarded them a $9.5 million grant to continue their research.  The money will be used to pay for MRIs and positron emission tomography scans on the donated brains so they can compare those people who have dementia to those that do not.

This is the largest study of the 90+ population in the world, and it will be fascinating to find out what these researchers discover.

Although I am not old enough to be part of this study, I am delighted that it is taking place in the community where I live.  I look forward to watching for future reports on what is being learned and I promise to pass updates on to my readers as new data is revealed to the public.

If you are retired or planning to retire soon, use the tabs at the top of this page to search for more information on medical issues, retirement finances, family relationships or places to retire.  Using those tabs, you will find links to hundreds of helpful articles.

Source of information on the UCI study:

"UCI's 90-plus Study Tackles Age-Old Question" by Lori Basheda.  Laguna Woods Globe, October 17, 2013 (a subsidiary of the Orange County Register)

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