Alzheimer's Disease Research Review: Summer 2018
- Advanced Imaging Could Lead to Screening Test
- President’s Corner
- Researcher Spotlight: Randall Bateman, MD
- Circadian Rhythms and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Clinical Trials May Lead to Alzheimer’s Treatment
- Healthy Recipe: Fruit-filled French Toast Wraps
- The Challenging Behaviors of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Leave a Legacy of Hope
Advanced Imaging Could Lead to Screening Test
New imaging techniques to assist with earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease are being sought by Xiong Jiang, PhD, a 2016-19 Alzheimer’s Disease Research grantee. Dr. Jiang, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Georgetown University Medical Center and director of its Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory, is optimistic that there will be a time when individuals are routinely screened for Alzheimer’s with an inexpensive, noninvasive test, and then treated before the brain is irreparably damaged.
“By the time you see symptoms there are already significant damages in the brain and it might be too late to initiate effective treatments,” says Jiang. Hoping to improve on this, Jiang and his team are combining functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with other types of imaging. After studying results from each type of test, they plan to develop and evaluate multimodal MRI biomarkers of Alzheimer’s using powerful machine-learning algorithms.
Already the team is excited about the preliminary results, “We have obtained some interesting and exciting results that suggest MRI (especially fMRI) has the potential to detect early and subtle changes in neuronal function before the onset of clinical symptoms,” Dr. Jiang said. “We are hoping the project funded by Alzheimer’s Disease Research will help us to verify, validate, and improve the technique we have right now, with an ultimate goal of real-world applications (i.e., clinical practice and drug development).
Their work coincides with the middle stages of large clinical trials where disease-modifying drugs are being tested that represent the first treatments with the potential to delay or stop Alzheimer’s destructive changes in the brain. When and if these new drugs are approved, early diagnosis, such as what Dr. Jiang and team are working on, can lead to earlier treatment. And that could make an all-important difference for many individuals hoping to live out their lives free of Alzheimer’s.
Your continued generosity helps support cutting- edge research like the work of Dr. Jiang in the cover story of this issue of Alzheimer’s Disease Research Review. While not every study ends with a major development, every insight – and every setback – moves us closer to better treatments, preventions, and a cure.
While several leading causes of death like cancer, stroke, and heart disease are declining, deaths from Alzheimer’s have risen 41%, which underlines the urgent need for research. Because government support doesn’t come close to what is needed, privately funded research, like all of ours, is essential to making progress in the fight to stop Alzheimer’s.
Thank you for partnering with Alzheimer’s Disease Research to ensure critical studies are funded and much-needed information is available for patients and caregivers, giving them hope as they confront Alzheimer’s today.
Researcher Spotlight: Randall Bateman, MD
Using the Most Advanced Imaging Technology to Fight Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s Disease Research grantee Randall Bateman, MD, Washington University School of Medicine, was already a passionate and award- winning researcher when Alzheimer’s struck close to home. His granddad was diagnosed with the disease. Despite his dislike of being near medical centers, Bateman’s granddad frequently volunteered to participate in Alzheimer’s research, including his grandson’s study on understanding how the brain makes and clears proteins that are thought to cause Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Bateman’s team has already developed an advanced imaging protocol called SILK-SIMS, which enables researchers to image and measure plaque growth at the nanometer level, seeing structures much smaller than cells, and to measure the growth during life. The goal of his current project is to measure that rate of plaque pathology progress using the most advanced imaging technology. This research is unique in that it is utilizing cutting-edge methodologies never before leveraged in the Alzheimer’s field. This could provide new insights for understanding amyloid pathology, perhaps accelerating drug development and assisting clinical trials.
Circadian Rhythms and Alzheimer's Disease
Forty-five percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease report problems with sleep, which has dramatic effects on their well-being and on those who live with them. Studies have found the problem arises from the destruction of a special “clock” in the brain, specifically a tiny part of the hypothalamus that tells us when to be awake and when to be asleep.
This clock is responsible for setting the daily cycle of bodily processes or “circadian rhythms.” Buildup of beta-amyloid in the brain, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, can affect every aspect of sleep – falling asleep, staying asleep, difficulty staying awake during the day, and unpredictable shifts between wakefulness and sleep that don’t fit into the usual daily cycle. To make matters worse for both patients and caregivers, it is during the period of deep sleep at night that beta-amyloid is naturally cleared from the brain. So, missing this stage leads to possible further decline in cognitive functioning. Encouraging daily exercise, eating a healthy diet, avoiding caffeine and sugar, getting plenty of fresh air, and staying engaged in daily activities can help patients sleep better at night by staying awake during the day. Caregivers can also assist with preparation for nighttime sleep by closing window blinds, dimming lights, and creating a calm, restful evening environment.
Clinical Trials May Lead to Alzheimer’s Treatment, According To Biogen Leader
In order to help raise awareness about the need for more participation in research trials, Alzheimer’s Disease Research recently spoke with Samantha Budd Haeberlein, PhD, Vice President of Clinical Trial Development at Biogen, who leads the company’s worldwide clinical trials on Alzheimer’s disease.
ADR: Why are clinical trials for Alzheimer’s so important?
Haeberlein: In Alzheimer’s disease, we have no treatments that stop or slow the disease. Clinical trials potentially are the first place patients could
be involved in something that could revolutionize that situation.
ADR: What would you like people to know about Alzheimer’s clinical trials?
Haeberlein: Trials are the place where we may find a new treatment and that we really need them to participate. We understand and appreciate it is a huge commitment and at the end of the day, it must be right for the person.
ADR: Do you think there’s enough awareness in the public about the opportunities to participate in Alzheimer’s trials?
Haeberlein: It’s not as high as it could or should be. After a diagnosis, it’s more common in other diseases without an available treatment, for the medical profession and even the patient to ask, “Well, what about a clinical trial?” But in Alzheimer’s disease, we don’t have that same level of awareness.
ADR: What more needs to be done to cure Alzheimer’s?
Haeberlein: We need to bring forward multiple treatments. One treatment may be able to slow down the course of disease—that’s a start. But what we really want to do is stop it in its tracks. So we’ll need multiple therapies and multiple lines of research. Increased participation in clinical trials is critical for progress toward treatments and a cure.
This series of articles promoting awareness of clinical trials is supported in part by an educational sponsorship from Biogen. Alzheimer’s Disease Research is solely responsible for the content of this article.
To learn more about how you may be able to participate in clinical research, please request our free publication, “Clinical Trials: Your Questions Answered” by calling 1-855-345-6237 or visiting brightfocus.org/trialtalk. This guide includes information on the important role of volunteers in science, as well as key questions to ask your doctor. You can also search for research projects in your area that are seeking volunteers by visiting brightfocus.org/trialtalk.
Fruit-filled French Toast Wraps
3/4 cup (6 ounces) vanilla yogurt
2/3 cup sliced ripe banana 1 large egg
1/4 cup 2% milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 whole wheat tortillas (8 inches)
1 teaspoons butter
2/3 cup sliced fresh strawberries
2/3 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup granola
OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: additional vanilla yogurt, strawberries, blueberries and granola
- In a small bowl, combine yogurt and banana. In a shallow bowl, whisk egg, milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Dip both sides of each tortilla in egg mixture. In a skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add tortilla; cook 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
- Spoon yogurt mixture down center of tortillas; top with strawberries, blueberries and granola. Roll up each tortilla. If desired, top with additional yogurt, berries and granola.
Yield: 2 servings
The Challenging Behaviours of Alzheimer's Disease - Part I
There’s More Than Memory Loss Involved
This article is part one of a three-part series on the challenging behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s disease, including agitation, sleep disturbances, inappropriate behavior, and apathy. These behaviors distress, difficulty, and danger involved in caring for people with Alzheimer’s.
Many caregivers seek help from healthcare providers to properly handle these behaviors. Without assistance, apathy and depression can further deplete a person’s quality of life. Agitation and aggression can be upsetting and potentially dangerous for all involved. And when inappropriate behaviors are displayed, it can frighten or harm others, making it difficult to interact with others at home or in long-term care settings. Finally, sleep disturbances can tax the endurance of loved ones beyond tolerance.
Over the course of the illness, more than 90% of people with Alzheimer’s will demonstrate challenging behavioral changes. Medications may help, but are not the preferred option. The good news is that each of these challenging behaviors responds fairly well to behavioral and environmental interventions that can be implemented with help from your healthcare team.
Leave a Legacy of Hope
When you leave a planned gift or assets to Alzheimer’s Disease Research in your will or estate plans, you create a personal and lasting legacy of hope by funding research that will benefit future generations.
There are many ways your planned gift, including a charitable gift annuity, can push research forward until a cure is discovered. For more information, please call Charles Thomas at 1-301-556-9397 or visit brightfocus.org/plannedgiving.
Please share this newsletter with someone you know who might be interested in learning about some of the latest advancements in research to diagnose, prevent, treat, and cure Alzheimer’s disease. This newsletter is published by Alzheimer’s Disease Research, a program of BrightFocus Foundation.
The information in Alzheimer’s Disease Research Review is provided as a public service and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified health care professional, nor is it intended to constitute medical advice. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy. Copies of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Review are available upon request.
Alzheimer’s Disease Research is a BrightFocus Foundation Program
22512 Gateway Center Drive, Clarksburg, Maryland 20871
301-948-3244 • 855-345-6237
© BrightFocus Foundation, 2018