Alzheimer's Disease Research Review: Winter 2020

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Alzheimer's Research Review: Winter 2020
Alzheimer's Research Review: Winter 2020

In This Issue...

Could TOM-1 Put The “Brakes” On Alzheimer's Disease?


Frank LaFerla, PhD

Inflammation in the brain is closely linked with Alzheimer’s disease, but the reasons for and consequences of that inflammation are multifaceted and not well understood. The complex chemistry of this process is being worked out in laboratories around the world, including at U.C. Irvine in Southern California. There, Frank LaFerla, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Biological Sciences, and Alessandra Martini, Ph.D., a postgraduate researcher, studied TOM-1, a protein associated with the brain’s inflammatory response that appears at low levels in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Using animal models, they found that decreasing TOM-1 intensified the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. When Drs. LaFerla and Martini restored TOM-1, the result was a significant restoration of the animal’s cognitive function.

Explaining the results to UCI News, LaFerla said:

“You can think of TOM-1 as being like the brakes of a car, and the brakes aren’t working for people with Alzheimer’s. This research shows that fixing the brakes at the molecular level could provide an entirely new therapeutic avenue.”

He continued: “With millions of people affected by Alzheimer’s and the numbers growing, we must research a diverse portfolio of approaches so we can one day vanquish this terrible disease.”

That’s exactly the reason Alzheimer’s Disease Research invested in Drs. LaFerla and Martini’s research. To learn more about all the latest advances in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, go to

President's Corner

Every day, scientists are taking important steps in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. This progress happens in research laboratories, hospitals, and treatment facilities around the world.

Continual incremental breakthroughs add to our knowledge of this disease and push the science forward. Every new piece of understanding brings us closer to a cure.

Compared to just ten years ago, the body of knowledge we now possess for Alzheimer’s disease is extraordinary — and yet, there is still so much to learn. The hope of our success lies in research.

That is why I’m so grateful for your support. Together, with perseverance and determination, we will reach our goal and end Alzheimer’s disease for good.

Stacy Pagos Haller

Researcher Spotlight: Virginia M.Y. Lee, PhD


Virginia M.Y. Lee, PhD

University of Pennsylvania professor Virginia M.Y. Lee, Ph.D., has won the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, a prize known as the “Oscars of Science,” for her research leading to new avenues for potential drug discovery and development.

Dr. Lee was honored for her work in understanding how different types of two misfolded proteins (TDP43 and alpha-synuclein) can move in different cell types and lead to different types of neurodegenerative diseases and health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease.

We celebrate Dr. Lee’s achievements and her impressive track record of research and leadership. Since the early 1990s, she has helped Alzheimer’s Disease Research by serving on our Scientific Review Committee (SRC). Her groundbreaking science is lending critical insights into the root causes—and potential cures—of Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias, and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Blood Test Shows High Accuracy In Detecting Early Alzheimer’s Pathology

The Alzheimer’s blood-based screening test called APTUS™-Ab has now passed the “proof of concept” stage, enabling the developmental company, C2N Diagnostics, to seek approval for use in research and clinical settings.

From a study launched in 2019, data showed that the APTUS™-Ab blood test strongly and reliably predicted the presence or absence of disease associated amyloid-beta, early markers of Alzheimer’s disease. This test was applied to 415 samples and verified using PET scans done on the same individuals.

If approved for use, the APTUS™-Ab blood test would allow screening, through a simple blood draw, for whether a person has the presence of Alzheimer’s pathology in the brain. It would pave the way for greater enrollment in clinical trials and the evaluation of new treatments for earlier and better patient care.

Diet and Alzheimer’s Disease


Much research has been directed at understanding how dietary patterns affect the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Food can play a positive, health-improving role, or a destructive and disease-promoting role.

An unhealthy diet can promote cognitive decline along with other health problems. The typical Western diet is high in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, processed grains, and added sugar. This can increase the body’s levels of oxidative stress and inflammatory response, harmful processes that contribute to the development of dementia.

But a healthier diet can protect cognitive functioning while also improving other aspects of health. Recently, the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay Diet, known popularly as the MIND Diet, has been shown to slow down cognitive decline in multiple scientific experiments.

The MIND Diet recommends a dietary focus on good foods such as whole grains, green leafy and other vegetables, berries, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and olive oil while minimizing intake of “bad” foods such as red meats, butter, margarine, cheese, fast foods, and sweets. From decades of observation, the MIND Diet has shown to support overall healthy aging and is about to be tested more definitively in a clinical trial—“the first clinical trial designed specifically to establish whether a diet can prevent brain degeneration,” says Martha Clare Morris, Ph.D., the researcher at Rush leading the trial.

As the body of research grows, we will learn more about how lifestyle choices and eating habits help protect the brain from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease Research recently supported research by Jason Brandt, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University, testing whether a modified Atkins Diet low in starches and sugars, and high in fat, can help treat Alzheimer's disease. To learn more, visit

Food And Brain Health

(On mobile devices, you many need to swipe left to see all of the table columns below.)

The following table provides information on foods that are healthy for the brain and foods to avoid.

Healthy Foods

Foods to Avoid

Whole grains Red meats
Fresh fruits Butter
Vegetables Margarine
Fish Cheese
Beans Fast foods
Nuts Sweets
Olive Oil High-sodium foods

Healthy Recipe: Spinach, Hummus, and Bell Pepper Wraps


  • 2 whole-grain flatbreads
  • 1/2 cup roasted garlic hummus
  • 1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup firmly packed baby spinach
  • 1 1 ounce crumbled tomato-and-basil feta cheese (about 1/4 cup)


  1. Spread each flatbread with 1/4 cup hummus, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge.
  2. Divide the bell pepper evenly between the flatbreads; top each with 1/2 cup spinach and 2 tablespoons cheese. Starting from one short side, roll up the wraps. Cut each wrap in half, and secure with wooden picks.

Yields 2 servings.

An Encouraging Alzheimer’s Announcement From Biogen

Biotechnology company Biogen recently announced that clinical trials of its experimental drug aducanumab reduced cognitive decline in some Alzheimer’s patients through improved cognition, memory, and activities of daily living. After consulting with the Food & Drug Administration, the company plans to continue clinical trials in 2020 for some of the patients who were previously enrolled.

This news is a powerful reminder that research equals hope, no matter how daunting the medical and scientific challenge. The teaming up of innovative researchers and dedicated clinical trials volunteers can lead to life-changing breakthroughs.

Alzheimer’s Disease Research helped lay the groundwork for possible treatments like this, and while there is still a long way to go in ending this disease, this is a truly promising development.

Your Legacy Gift Can Change The Future

A gift in your will or trust is a heartfelt way to support Alzheimer’s Disease Research well into the future without using any of your assets today. However, we know the process can seem overwhelming, which is why we offer a free personal estate planning kit. This kit includes a lesson and record book that will take you through the process of creating a will or trust step by step. If you would like a personal estate planning kit, please call 301-556-9362 or download at