Alzheimer's Disease Research Review: Spring 2017
In This Issue:
Scientists Shed New Light on Sex-Based Differences in Alzheimer'sAlzheimer's Disease Research Review: Spring 2017
New Research Analyzes the Driving Factors
- A New Angle on Alzheimer's: The Inflammation Connection
- President's Corner
- Engaging Someone with Alzheimer's in Activities
- Healthy Recipe: Spring Vegetable Soup
- EyesOnALZ in 2017
- Ask the Expert: What is the Cost of Alzheimer's Disease?
Scientists Shed New Light on Sex-Based Differences in Alzheimer’s
New Research Analyzes the Driving Factors
Women have a greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease than men, when factoring in women’s longer average life span. The odds for men are 1 in 11, compared with 1 in 6 for women. Research supported by a grant from Alzheimer’s Disease Research is shedding light on what drives these sex-based differences.
Lead scientist Dr. Enrico Glaab started looking for molecular differences between the sexes that could contribute to the differences in frequency and characteristics of the disease. To do so, he and his team at the University of Luxembourg analyzed thousands of data series on samples from the brains of around 650 deceased men and women, some of whom had the disease and others who had not.
The researchers discovered that a particular gene, ubiquitin-specific peptidase 9 (USP9), could be an important clue to dramatic sex-based differences in the rate and expression of Alzheimer’s disease.
They report that USP9, which is lower in men, appears to provide men with some protection against the disease through its interaction with another gene that helps regulate tau proteins. Tau is a protein that is present in the normal functioning brain, but found in higher than normal levels in the Alzheimer’s brain. The team found that blocking the USP9 gene significantly reduced the activity of the tau gene.
According to Dr. Glaab, the gene may help identify targets for anti-Alzheimer’s treatments in the future, since proteins that had already been suggested as potential drug targets are also influenced by USP9.
A New Angle on Alzheimer’s: The Inflammation Connection
Scientists are increasingly looking at the process of inflammation in their efforts to better understand what allows, causes, or worsens Alzheimer’s. A current hypothesis is that inflammatory activity in the brain promotes Alzheimer’s by increasing the production of amyloid, killing healthy neurons, and ultimately reducing the ability of the brain’s security system to remove amyloid plaques.
If there is a connection between inflammation and Alzheimer’s, among the lessons this theory holds for us are the following:
- Prevention and appropriate treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions, including such conditions as inflammation of the gums (which has been linked to an increased risk for dementia), is very important.
- Models have shown that cognitive improvements can be achieved by blocking the inflammatory proteins released when activated. Identifying valid and affordable biomarkers of brain inflammation is an important part of pushing research in this area.
- In time, we may all benefit from new treatments that alter inflammation in people with, or at increased risk for, Alzheimer’s. These treatments might eventually be part of a “cocktail” of cooperating medications that reduce toxic amyloid’s production, increase its elimination, and change the course of this damaging disease.
The complex chemistry of the inflammation process is being worked out in laboratories around the world to further our understanding of Alzheimer’s and other aspects of health and disease.
Alzheimer’s Disease Research is at the forefront of the innovative research regarding inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease, funding many research projects in this area. To learn more, please visit https://www.brightfocus.org/ADR.
The number of people with Alzheimer’s today and the projected growth going forward is alarming. But I’m more hopeful than ever.
That’s because I talk with our research scientists almost every day and learn something new with every conversation.
They are the future and the hope: the backbone of discovery that will bring us the breakthroughs in the search for the causes and the cure. And their ability to conduct that research depends on the generosity of dedicated supporters like you.
Thanks to your support, we’re able to fund the most promising research, like the study above into the potential connection between inflammation and Alzheimer’s. Funding research like this is critical to getting the answers we need.
I truly appreciate all that you do and all that you will continue to make possible in the fight to end this mind-stealing disease.
Stacy Pagos Haller
Engaging Someone with Alzheimer’s in Activities
When someone with Alzheimer’s is stressed, distracted, agitated, or sleeps a lot, it can be a struggle to get them engaged in an activity. These scenarios are challenging, but engagement is possible, and can also help to distract them from negative behaviors or disturbing emotions.
Before you begin, there are three things to consider:
- Their health. Be aware of any underlying medical conditions and ensure that outstanding medical issues are addressed. The healthier he/she is feeling, the better able he/she is to engage.
- Noise levels and visual cues in the room. Noise and clutter can impede engagement. Turn off the television to minimize distraction and eliminate clutter.
- Familiar activities. Engage in activities that were once enjoyed or at one time provided special meaning.
In addition, remember to:
- Keep the activity simple, with just one or two steps.
- Stay calm and ignore mistakes; in the end, they don’t matter.
- Expect trial and error.
- Pay attention to your loved one’s response and individualize your approach and each activity as needed.
- Evaluate each interaction, learn from it, and revise your approach as needed.
Over the course of the disease, it will be necessary to simplify activities to match your loved one’s abilities. For instance, a life-long reader may eventually enjoy being read to, and then progress to just looking at the pictures, and playing music or singing may progress to listening to music only.
Remember, nothing is more important than to approach any activity as a chance to engage and involve, and hopefully add to the quality of life.
Spring Vegetable Soup
This easy recipe celebrates spring with nutrient-dense vegetables, which may help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ red cabbage (medium head, about 2 cups, finely shredded)
- 2 ripe tomatoes (medium, seeded and chopped)
- 2 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate
- ½ cup canned artichoke hearts (drained and chopped)
- 1 cup green peas (frozen or fresh)
- 2½ cups low-sodium vegetable or tomato juice
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- In large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté cabbage, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and peas for 10 minutes.
- Add juice and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, add basil and simmer for 10 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender and soup is piping hot.
- Serve in individual serving bowls. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Yield: 4 Servings
EyesOnALZ in 2017
EyesOnALZ is a citizen science project funded in part by Alzheimer’s Disease Research. It enables anyone to become a virtual scientist, contribute to Alzheimer’s research, and speed up drug discovery by playing online games.
The first of EyesOnALZ’s online games is Stall Catchers. By playing Stall Catchers, you and your loved ones assist research scientists in examining blood vessels in the brain and searching for “stalls,” which are clogged capillaries where blood is no longer flowing. Scientists believe that identifying and reducing these stalls in people could eventually slow the progression of the disease.
Stall Catchers began 2017 with almost 3,000 registered users and enough data to complete the validation study. The experience has shown that the crowd of citizen scientists is just as reliable as the experts at finding stalls.
We thank all of you who played Stall Catchers and provided valuable feedback.
Individuals can still sign up to participate at www.brightfocus.org/eyesonalz. Your contribution helps to drastically speed up the research.
EyesOnALZ and Stall Catchers was featured in episode 1 of the exciting new four-part documentary on citizen science, The Crowd & the Cloud, which aired recently on PBS. You can view it online at www.brightfocus.org/pbs.
Ask the Expert: What is the Cost of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Nationally, the annual cost of Alzheimer’s and related dementias is $259 billion in health care, long-term care, and hospice expenses, with 67 percent covered by Medicare and Medicaid. More than 15 million Americans provide billions of hours of unpaid care to someone with Alzheimer’s, valued at more than $230 billion.