5 things you didn’t know about Alzheimer’s

Approximately 44 million people live with dementia worldwide, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. By 2050, that number is expected to more than triple to 115 million.

In the fight against these fast-growing numbers, experts from all over the world discussed the latest research at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week. Here are five things we learned about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia:

Hypertension in old age may save your brain
High blood pressure is usually called the “silent killer.” However, a new study from the University of California now suggests that if you’re over 90, hypertension can save the life of your brain cells. Hypertension may protect against dementia in people over age 90, the study authors say.

The researchers followed 625 participants who developed high blood pressure in their 90s for up to 10 years and found that their risk for dementia was 55% lower than people without a history of hypertension.

Nevertheless, the study doesn’t promote hypertension in the elderly, given that high blood pressure is related to other bad outcomes.

5 things you didn't know about Alzheimer's
“I don’t think it says if I find somebody who’s doing well at age 90, whose blood pressure is 120/80, we should feed them salt to bump their blood pressure up,” says William Klunk, vice chair of the Alzheimer’s Association Medical and Scientific Advisory Council.

The study simply shows that when it comes to normal levels of blood pressure, it might not be a one-size-fits-all with respect to age, he says.
Better late than never

Seniors can lower their risk for late-life cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease with a number of lifestyle changes, new research suggests.

A two-year clinical trial from Karolinska Institutet and the Finnish Institute for Health included 1,260 participants aged 60 to 77. One part of the group received a “lifestyle-package,” including nutritional guidance, physical exercise, management of heart health risk factors, cognitive training and social activities. The control group received standard health advice.

After two years, the lifestyle-intervention group did much better in tests of memory and thinking.

We know from past studies that implementing those lifestyle factors in midlife can hedge against Alzheimer’s disease later on, says Ralph Nixon, chairman of the Alzheimer’s Association Medical and Scientific Advisory Council. “The good news from this particular study is that these kind of changes can be implemented in your 60s and 70s.”

Playing games makes your brain bigger
Middle-aged people who were avid game-players (think crosswords, checkers, cards) tended to have bigger brains than people who did not play games, according to a recent study that looked at brain scans.

“It’s like looking at someone’s muscle mass,” said Dr. Laurel Coleman of the Maine Medical Center Geriatric Assessment Center. “It’s bad when it’s smaller, good when it’s bigger.”

Researchers looked specifically at certain parts of participants’ brains. The volume among game-players was greater in areas that tend to be damaged by Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting the potential for delaying — maybe even avoiding — the disease. People who kept their brains pumped scored higher on tests of their thinking ability.

Coleman suggests mixing it up: Try potentially stimulating activities like learning a new language or switching from reading nonfiction to fiction — anything that poses a cognitive challenge.

Exercise benefits the mind too
Exercise seems to slow the descent toward dementia as well. Two sets of data from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging suggest that exercise may positively influence how mild cognitive impairment (a precursor to dementia) and dementia develop.

In one group of patients with mild cognitive impairment, exercising seemed to protect against developing dementia. Data on a different group of healthy patients who exercised — either lightly or vigorously — showed they were less likely to be diagnosed with cognitive impairment.

“We would never say that these things totally prevent Alzheimer’s, that they will cure you,” said Coleman, a geriatrician. “But they’re going to help your brain.”

A smell test may detect Alzheimer’s
In the future, a test of your sense of smell may help doctors predict your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

In two separate studies, scientists found that people who were unable to identify certain odors were more likely to experience cognitive impairment. The researchers believe that brain cells crucial to a person’s sense of smell are killed in the early stages of dementia.

Researchers say this information could help doctors create a smell test to detect Alzheimer’s earlier. Early detection means early intervention and treatment to slow the progression of the disease. Doctors today can only diagnose Alzheimer’s disease once it has caused significant brain damage.
“In the face of the growing worldwide Alzheimer’s disease epidemic, there is a pressing need for simple, less invasive diagnostic tests that will identify the risk of Alzheimer’s much earlier in the disease process,” Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer’s Association, said in a statement.

Source: cnn news

Roche ‘brain shuttle’ technology offers Alzheimer’s hope

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Swiss drug maker Roche has found an efficient way for complex antibody drugs to reach and penetrate the brain, raising the possibility of more effective treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The innovative brain shuttle technology, which has so far been tested in mice, can cross the blood-brain barrier that has been a key obstacle for researchers working on neurological drugs because it acts as a seal against large molecules such as antibodies.

Alzheimer’s is a fatal brain-wasting disease that affects 44 million people worldwide, with the number set to triple by 2050, campaign group Alzheimer’s Disease International says.

Although there is still no treatment that can effectively modify the disease or slow its progression, a number of companies – including Roche, Eli Lilly, Merck & Co and Johnson & Johnson – are pursuing a variety of approaches to get to the root cause.

It is proving an uphill battle. Over the past 15 years more than 100 experimental Alzheimer’s drugs have failed in tests. Industry analysts believe that the prize for a truly effective drug could be a market worth $10 billion in annual sales.

Roche’s new technology works by hijacking a natural transport mechanism called receptor-mediated transcytosis, which is normally used by the body to transfer proteins inside the brain.

“We have basically designed this module, called shuttle, that binds to this transport mechanism and shuttles a cargo inside the brain,” Luca Santarelli, Roche’s head of neuroscience, ophthalmology and rare diseases, said in a telephone interview.


Results of a study published in the journal Neuron on Wednesday found the technology helped to increase the concentration of antibodies in the brains of mice, reducing the amount of amyloid plaque, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

Roche tested a precursor of its experimental Alzheimer’s drug gantenerumab in the pre-clinical trials. The amount of antibody that penetrated the brain increased more than fiftyfold.

Santarelli said that the brain shuttle technology is not limited to the memory-robbing disease and could be applied to other neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s disease. The drugmaker is in the process of evaluating which therapeutic targets and diseases to prioritize.

Roche has struck a deal with U.S. biotech firm Isis to develop treatments for Huntington’s and aims to engineer a shuttle to increase penetration of drugs into the brain. It is also working on a program with Irish company Prothena in Parkinson’s disease.

Santarelli said that all projects are still in pre-clinical testing and the company needs to undertake a few more steps before it can begin clinical trials.

Turning to Roche’s Alzheimer’s pipeline, he said that its Phase III trial of gantenerumab in patients who have yet to develop dementia is on track, with results expected in the first half of 2016.

Roche has two other drugs in clinical testing, including crenezumab, which has been chosen for a U.S. government-backed trial in a group of Colombians with a genetic mutation that leads to Alzheimer’s in their forties.

Source: health wise daily

Lundbeck hopes to launch new Alzheimer’s drug in 2017

Danish pharmaceutical group Lundbeck said on Monday that it hopes to launch a new Alzheimer’s medicine in 2017 in what would be the first new drug for the condition in more than a decade.

Dementia – of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form – already affects 44 million people worldwide and is set to reach 135 million by 2050, according to non-profit campaign group Alzheimer’s Disease International.

There is currently no treatment that can cure the disease or slow its progression, but Lundbeck’s new drug – known as Lu AE58054 – is designed to alleviate some of the symptoms and improve cognitive function.

As such, it would build on treatments currently on the market rather than competing with more ambitious projects under way at large drug companies, which aim to modify the biology of the disease.

“If the studies that we are currently running end well, then we wi

ll probably be the first company to launch a new Alzheimer’s drug in 10 to 15 years,” Lundbeck Chief Scientific Officer Anders Gersel Pedersen told Reuters.

The Danish company, together with its Japanese partner Otsuka, is currently testing its experimental Alzheimer’s drug in 3,000 patients in four final-stage Phase III clinical studies.

Pedersen said he expected the drug to have annual worldwide sales of considerably more than $1 billion, if it is approved.

“There is a huge market for this kind of medicine, until the day you cure the disease,” Pedersen said.

It is more than a decade since the last drug, Ebixa, also from Lundbeck, was approved to treat Alzheimer’s.

Although there is still no treatment that can effectively modify the disease or slow its progression, a number of companies – including Eli Lilly, Merck & Co, Roche and Johnson & Johnson – are pursuing a variety of approaches to get to the root of the memory-robbing disorder.

Health ministers from the Group of Eight countries last week set a goal of finding a cure or a disease-modifying therapy by 2025 – a target that is seen as ambitious given that scientists are still struggling to understand the fundamental biology of Alzheimer’s. (Editing by Simon Johnson and David Goodman)

Source: US web daily