A blood test that could spot early signs of Alzheimer’s is being perfected by scientists.
The particular group of peptides, called beta amyloid (A), are found naturally in the body, and a build-up in the brain over a period of years causes memory complaints and other symptoms associated with the disease.
Professor Manuel Sarasa, the chief scientific officer and founder of Araclon Biotech, and his team have been perfecting blood tests “ABtest40” and “ABtest42” to measure tiny amounts of the peptides.
He said: “The study has shown that our tests for A in blood find a high level of association between the peptide levels and the disease when comparing healthy people and people with mild cognitive impairment.”
“By measuring three different levels in blood, free in plasma, bound to plasma components and bound to blood cells, for two of the most significant peptides, A40 and A42, then comparing the ratios of those levels to established diagnoses methods, we have been able to consistently show a relationship between A levels and the disease.”
“This means that we, and by ‘we’ I mean Alzheimer’s’ researchers in general, are that much closer to having a reliable, minimally invasive biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease.”
He added: “The importance of this is that studies could recruit earlier and at much less expense.
“Interventional therapies can be tested in earlier stages of the disease and once an effective therapy is found, this type of test will be well suited to population screening in the public health sector.”
The results of the research are being published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in July.
In many neurodegenerative diseases the neurons of the brain are over-stimulated and this leads to their destruction. After many failed attempts and much scepticism this process was finally shown last year to be a possible basis for treatment in some patients with stroke. But very few targets for drugs to block this process are known.
n a new highly detailed study, researchers have discovered a previously missing link between over-stimulation and destruction of brain tissue, and shown that this might be a target for future drugs. This research, led by the A. I. Virtanen Institute at the University of Eastern Finland in collaboration with scientists from Lausanne University Hospital, University of Lausanne and the company Xigen Pharma AG, was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
What is this missing link? We have known for years that over-stimulated neurons produce nitric oxide molecules. Although this can activate a signal for destruction of cells, the small amount of nitric oxide produced cannot alone explain the damage to the brain. The team now show that a protein called NOS1AP links the nitric oxide that is produced to the damage that results.. NOS1AP binds an initiator of cell destruction called MKK3 and also moves within the cell to the source of nitric oxide when cells are over-activated.. The location of these proteins in cells causes them to convert the over-stimulation signal into a cell destruction response. The team designed a chemical that prevents NOS1AP from binding the source of nitric oxide. This reduces the cell destruction response in cells of the brain and as a result it limits brain lesions in rodents.
This translational research was funded mainly by the Academy of Finland, the European Union and the University of Eastern Finland and used the recently developed high-throughput imaging facilities at the A. I. Virtanen Institute. The researchers hope that continuation of their work could lead to improved treatments for diseases such as stroke, epilepsy and chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. As NOS1AP is associated with schizophrenia, diabetes and sudden cardiac death, future research in this area may assist the treatment of a wider range of diseases.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that can slow aging and help grow hair. Research has shown that vitamin E can soften the red blood cells, which increases circulation by improving blood flow. Vitamin E comes in eight forms. Four are tocopherols and four are tocotrienoils. Most Americans’ diet is rich in gamma-tocopherols while the Europeans’ is high in alpha tocopherols. Adding nuts to the diet is a great way to get more vitamin E, as nuts contain high amounts of this valuable nutrient.
Vitamin E for increasing blood flow
Cell membranes become less flexible as we get older. When the red blood cells become stiff, they have a difficulty time getting through the small capillaries. The smallest capillaries are usually too small for the red blood cells to pass through without flexing, so when they become stiff, they can’t get through at all. This causes a decrease in circulation to the extremities, and into the organs.
Within five days of adding vitamin E as gamma-tocopherols, the cell lining of the blood vessels improved as reported in the Journal of Nutrtitional Biochemistry. The study also demonstrated that vitamin E reduced a marker of oxidative stress called or MDA. In the study, men were given 500 mg of gamma-tocopherol, 60 mg of alpha-tocopherol, 170 mg of delta tocopherol, and nine mg of beta-tocopherol.
Vitamin E increases brain function
Those with Alzheimer’s disease had lower levers of vitamin E and also showed damage from lack of vitamin E. This was noted by tracing the markers alph-tocopherylquinone, and 5-nitro-gamma-tocopherol. The research concluded that a low level of vitamin E in the blood was a precursor to Alzheimer’s and dementia. This study used only alpha-tocopherol, while noting that using only this form of vitamin E could lead to increased stroke risk. Supplements with only this type of alph-tocopherol may prevent absorption or bioavailability of other forms of the nutrient. The authors of the study suggest a balance of vitamin E forms to protect the nervous system.
Regrow hair with vitamin E
Vitamin E can also help regrow hair after hair loss. The nutrient stimulates the growth of capillaries on the scalp. Vitamin E capsules can be applied to the scalp or taken as supplements. To grow hair, it’s best to apply topically and take vitamin E internally. Good effects will also be seen on the skin from adding this fat soluble nutrient.
Vitamin E helps treat diabetes
Using 1,800 IE of vitamin E per day, diabetic patients showed improvement in both their kidney function and retinal blood flow. The use of vitamin E prevented diabetic neuropathy in those with Type I diabetes. The nutrient has no effect on blood sugar level, making it a good treatment for hyperglycemia.
Food sources of vitamin E
Vitamin E can be found in many foods. Eggs raised naturally are a good source, as are nuts. Sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamin E, containing over 36 mg per 100 grams. Almonds contain 26 mg per 100 grams, and pine nuts have nine grams. Olives add 3.8 grams per 1,000 grams, which is about the same as spinach. Add a little bit of paprika or red chili powder to increase the vitamin E content. Both spices have 30 mg per 100 gram serving, which is a bit more than two milligrams per teaspoon.
About the author:
Talya Dagan is a health advocate and health coach, trained in nutrition and gourmet health food cuisine, writing about natural remedies for disease and nutrition and herbal medicine.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham in the U.K. say their test looks for a combination of markers in the blood that wave red flags for the neurodegenerative illness. These flags include amyloids, the misfolded proteins that can accumulate in plaques in the brain; apolipoprotein E, or ApoE, a variant of which is linked to Alzheimer’s; and other proteins linked to inflammation.
“Our findings are exciting because they show that it is technically possible to distinguish between healthy people and those with Alzheimer’s using a blood test,” University of Nottingham professor Kevin Morgan told the BBC. “As blood tests are a fast and easy way of aiding diagnosis, we are really encouraged by these findings and the potential they hold for the future.”
But don’t hold your breath: it could be 10 years or more before the test is available to patients.
When the test does become available, it could be used to screen people for the disease long before symptoms appear.
“The way we see it working is you can test people and it will tell them if they have the all-clear, or if they are medium- or high-risk,” Morgan told the BBC. “If they are medium-risk, they can be monitored closely and high-risk patients can be referred to a specialist for more in-depth testing.”
Meanwhile, a cure for Alzheimer’s is still a long way off.
“We’ve had a lot of failures in Alzheimer’s drugs. But you learn from them,” Guy Eakin, vice president of scientific affairs at the American Health Assistance Foundation, said last May.
In May 2012, federal officials announced the start of the first clinical trial of a drug aimed at actually preventing – not just treating or curing — Alzheimer’s disease.
The trial – a $100 million collaboration between the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Arizona-based Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, drug giant Genentech and the University of Antioquia in Colombia between — approaches the disease from an unusual angle. Instead of testing drugs on patients with full-blown dementia, the trial focuses on around 300 people in the U.S. and Colombia that carry a genetic mutation that usually triggers Alzheimer’s symptoms around age 45. Most of the study subjects are from a single large extended family.
Prevention efforts for Alzheimer’s focus on a mutation that affects the gene PSEN1, which is involved in the production amyloid protein. Clumps of beta amyloid proteins, known as plaques, and smaller aggregations of amyloid known as ‘ligomers’ are thought to play a key role in Alzheimer’s disease when they build up in the brain.
Crenezumab, the drug being tested, is an antibody that binds to beta amyloid and helps clear out those excessive deposits.
(CBS News) You may be able to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, if you incorporate some special foods into your diet, according to a new book.”Power Foods for the Brain: An Effective Three Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory.”
“There’s nothing more frightening than losing your memory and your connections. Most people have thought, well, it’s just part of aging and I’m going to spend the last five or 10 years of my life not knowing anybody,” said Dr. Neal Barnard, author of “Power Foods for the Brain: An Effective Three Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory.” “The beautiful news is we now know what seems to be triggering that so that we can avoid it.”
He advises that there are many foods to avoid, including avoiding trans-fats and saturated fats. These fats are not only bad for your heart, but can increase your chance for Alzheimer’s 300 to 500 percent for those who eat the most. He also suggests avoiding using certain metals in cookware.
Number of Alzheimer’s patients could triple by 2050
“If you have a cast iron pan, over time it will rust. That’s oxidation, and that happens to the metals that get into your body. So you need a trace of iron for healthy blood cells, but iron builds up in the brain and oxidizes,” explains Barnard, a nutrition researcher at George Washington University. “That releases free radicals, and destroys brain cells. So a stainless steel pan is better than a cast iron pan.
However, there are also many foods that actually help ward off the disease. Barnard suggests eating large amounts of dark berries and leafy greens, as those foods assist in keeping your brain healthy. It’s also helpful to eat almonds and other foods with high amounts of vitamin E. People who got the most vitamin E had 60 percent less risk for Alzheimer’s compared to other people.
Alzheimer’s: Families face difficult health care decisions
“Everybody should be focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans. When people look at vegetarians, they live longer, they have less heart disease and it looks like they have an edge in mental health, as well. There is less risk of dementia,” said Barnard.
It’s not just what you put in your body that can help, but also what you do with it. Barnard suggests that exercising and getting enough sleep will help keep your brain functioning by increasing the flow of oxygen.
“Researchers have shown even 30 to 40 minutes of exercise, a brisk walk three times a week, changes the brain physically,” he said.
For Dr. Bernard’s full interview, watch the video in the player above.
Too much tossing and turning could be a sign of trouble to come. Restless nights may signal the onset of Alzheimer’s disease years before memory loss or other cognitive problems occur, shows intriguing new research published in Neurology.
For two weeks, a study team tracked the sleeping habits of 145 healthy adults. The researchers also tested the participant’s spinal fluid for markers of preclinical Alzheimer’s. Those who scored lowest in terms of overall sleep quality were five times more likely to test positive for preclinical Alzheimer’s. Signs of poor sleep quality include taking more time to fall asleep, sleeping less during the night, and taking naps more frequently during the day, according to the study.
What might sleep have to do with Alzheimer’s? Small amyloid plaques are present in the brains of sufferers, and may appear up to 20 years before cognitive decline sets in, says study co-author Yo-El Ju, MD, a neurologist at Washington University in St. Louis. These plaques appear to interfere with the neuronal functions necessary for healthy sleep. That means trouble sleeping—even in your 40s or 50s—could be cause for concern, the study suggests.
And there’s more bad news: Not only do these plaques disrupt sleep, but sleeping poorly also appears to increase their presence, meaning it may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s, Dr. Ju explains. Fortunately, she says understanding the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s could help doctors develop treatments to slow or stop the development of the illness.
There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but getting a good night’s rest could slow the buildup of brain plaques that leads to cognitive decline, the research suggests. If you’re struggling with sleep woes, Ju recommends avoiding caffeine and alcohol, establishing a consistent sleep schedule, and following other well-established sleep-improvement tips. If those tactics don’t work after several weeks, then she suggests talking to your doctor about the problem. Of course, it may very well not signal Alzheimer’s—but poor sleep is also linked to other health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes.
A staggering 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, says a new report that highlights the impact the mind-destroying disease is having on the rapidly aging population.
Dying with Alzheimer’s is not the same as dying from it. But even when dementia isn’t the direct cause of death, it can be the final blow – speeding someone’s decline by interfering with their care for heart disease, cancer or other serious illnesses. That’s the assessment of the report released Tuesday by the Alzheimer’s Association, which advocates for more research and support for families afflicted by it.
“Exacerbated aging,” is how Dr. Maria Carrillo, an association vice president, terms the Alzheimer’s effect. “It changes any health care situation for a family.”
In fact, only 30 percent of 70-year-olds who don’t have Alzheimer’s are expected to die before their 80th birthday. But if they do have dementia, 61 percent are expected to die, the report found.
(MROE: Two Studies Find Promising New Ways to Detect Alzheimer’s Earlier)
Already, 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Those numbers will jump to 13.8 million by 2050, Tuesday’s report predicts. That’s slightly lower than some previous estimates.
Count just the deaths directly attributed to dementia, and they’re growing fast. Nearly 85,000 people died from Alzheimer’s in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in a separate report Tuesday. Those are people who had Alzheimer’s listed as an underlying cause on a death certificate, perhaps because the dementia led to respiratory failure. Those numbers make Alzheimer’s the sixth leading cause of death.
That death rate rose 39 percent in the past decade, even as the CDC found that deaths declined among some of the nation’s other top killers – heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. The reason: Alzheimer’s is the only one of those leading killers to have no good treatment. Today’s medications only temporarily ease some dementia symptoms.
But what’s on a death certificate is only part of the story.
Consider: Severe dementia can make it difficult for people to move around or swallow properly. That increases the risk of pneumonia, one of the most commonly identified causes of death among Alzheimer’s patients.
Likewise, dementia patients can forget their medications for diabetes, high blood pressure or other illnesses. They may not be able to explain they are feeling symptoms of other ailments such as infections. They’re far more likely to be hospitalized than other older adults. That in turn increases their risk of death within the following year.
“You should be getting a sense of the so-called blurred distinction between deaths among people with Alzheimer’s and deaths caused by Alzheimer’s. It’s not so clear where to draw the line,” said Jennifer Weuve of Chicago’s Rush University, who helped study that very question.
The Chicago Health and Aging Project tracked the health of more than 10,000 older adults over time. Weuve’s team used the data to estimate how many people nationally will die with Alzheimer’s this year – about 450,000, according to Tuesday’s report.
That’s compatible with the 1 in 3 figure the Alzheimer’s Association calculates for all dementias. That number is based on a separate analysis of Medicare data that includes both Alzheimer’s cases and deaths among seniors with other forms of dementia.
(MORE: New Research on Understanding Alzheimer’s)
Last year, the Obama administration set a goal of finding effective Alzheimer’s treatments by 2025, and increased research funding to help. It’s not clear how the government’s automatic budget cuts, which began earlier this month, will affect those plans.
But Tuesday’s report calculated that health and long-term care services will total $203 billion this year, much of that paid by Medicare and Medicaid and not counting unpaid care from family and friends. That tab is expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2050, barring a research breakthrough, the report concluded.
The global pharmaceutical industry has racked up fines of more than $11bn in the past three years for criminal wrongdoing, including withholding safety data and promoting drugs for use beyond their licensed conditions.
In all, 26 companies, including eight of the 10 top players in the global industry, have been found to be acting dishonestly. The scale of the wrongdoing, revealed for the first time, has undermined public and professional trust in the industry and is holding back clinical progress, according to two papers published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine. Leading lawyers have warned that the multibillion-dollar fines are not enough to change the industry’s behaviour.
The 26 firms are under “corporate integrity agreements”, which are imposed in the US when healthcare wrongdoing is detected, and place the companies on notice for good behaviour for up to five years.
The largest fine of $3bn, imposed on the UK-based company GlaxoSmith-Kline in July after it admitted three counts of criminal behaviour in the US courts, was the largest ever. But GSK is not alone – nine other companies have had fines imposed, ranging from $420m on Novartis to $2.3bn on Pfizer since 2009, totalling over $11bn.
Kevin Outterson, a lawyer at Boston University, says that despite the eye watering size of the fines they amount to a small proportion of the companies’ total revenues and may be regarded as a “cost of doing business”. The $3bn fine on GSK represents 10.8 per cent of its revenue while the $1.5bn fine imposed on Abbott Laboratories, for promoting a drug (Depakote) with inadequate evidence of its effectiveness, amounted to 12 per cent.
Mr Outterson said: “Companies might well view such fines as a quite small percentage of their global revenue. If so, little has been done to change the system. The government merely recoups a portion of the financial fruit of firms’ past misdeeds.”
He argues that penalties should be imposed on executives rather than the company as whole. He cites a Boston whistleblower attorney, Robert Thomas who observed that GSK had committed a $1bn crime and “no individual has been held responsible”.
Following GSK’s admission that it had withheld safety data about its best-selling diabetes drug Avandia, the company pledged to make more clinical trial information available. But the pledge has “disturbing exceptions”, according to Mr Outterson, and in any case is made under the corporate integrity agreement, which expires in five years.
Trust in the industry among doctors has fallen so low that they dismiss clinical trials funded by it, even when the trials have been conducted with scientific rigour, according to a second paper in the journal by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston. This could have serious implications because most medical research is funded by the drug industry and “if physicians are reluctant to trust all such research, it could hinder the translation of … research into practice,” said Aaron Kesselheim, who led the study.
Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GSK, said at the time of the $3bn settlement last July that it had resolved “difficult, long-standing matters” for the company and that there had since been a “fundamental change in procedures” including the removal of staff engaged in misconduct and changes to incentive payments.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said practices in the industry had improved and more changes to “build greater levels of trust” would be made. The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said it monitored the conduct of companies and took “appropriate action” when it uncovered malpractice.
Alzheimer’s funding ‘must continue’
Governments, universities and charities should step in to ensure funding is maintained for research into Alzheimer’s disease, following a series of failed drug trials, experts said yesterday.
They were responding to a report in The Independent that the world’s leading drug companies are giving up on the search for a cure, scaling back their neuroscience departments and focusing on symptomatic, rather than disease-modifying, treatments.
A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said: “This is not the time to back away from dementia research. Despite costing the economy more than cancer and heart disease, funding for research into dementia is only a fraction of these conditions. More funding is urgently needed if we are to defeat it.”