Memory Care Monthly Articles
Could Cannabis Help Prevent Alzheimer's? Unless Lawmakers Adapt To Allow Its Study, We May Never Know
Medical cannabis is becoming more and more common around the US, with over 60% of states having some form of medical marijuana law in effect. In addition, 8 states have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Public opinion has swung in favor of decriminalizing marijuana – and regardless of your opinion on recreational use, there are many studies that show medical marijuana has a wide variety of beneficial effects.
Yet, many scientists are still being blocked at a federal level from conducting wide-scale studies on the effects of medical cannabis on conditions like cancer, chronic pain, and even Alzheimer's and dementia.
Researchers at the Salk Institute in California – where medical and recreational marijuana are legal – were blocked by the DEA from obtaining clearance to test a marijuana extract on mice, in an effort to study the effects of the drug on amyloid deposits.
Amyloid deposits are currently thought to be the primary cause of Alzheimer’s and dementia. This toxic “plaque” builds up around the brain’s neurons, reducing their functionality, and eventually leading to neurological death.
These Salk Institute researchers wished to further study the results of another experiment, which revealed that the compounds in cannabis have the ability to remove the amyloid plaque build-up that is common in Alzheimer’s patients.
However, they found that they could not obtain clearance to do so. The Salk Institute receives federal funding – and according to federal law, cannabis is still a Schedule I substance, and not allowed to be studied – even under controlled, scientific conditions.
While independent, private research of the effects of cannabis on Alzheimer’s patients is ongoing, this federal blockage of research could set back researchers – and result in a prolonged search for a cure.
5 Eating Habits That Could Help Reduce The Risk Of Alzheimer’s
Could avoiding Alzheimer’s be as simple as changing your diet? We’re still not certain about the precise cause of Alzheimer’s, but there are quite a few studies that have been done showing that lifestyle choices like exercise habits, sleeping schedules, and even dietary habits can contribute to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.
High blood sugar, in particular, is associated with increased strain on the brain and cardiovascular system – and may be one of the major lifestyle-related risk factors of the disease.
Let’s take a look at 5 eating habits that could help you reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia, according to Dr. Marilyn Glenville, a leading nutritionist.
Follow these tips, and you’re sure to maintain a healthy brain!
Pharmaceutical Company Neurotrope To Release Results Of Phase II Trials Of New Alzheimer’s Therapy Drug Bryostatin
The quest to find a true cure for Alzheimer’s has taken another step forward.
Neurotrope, a leading pharmaceutical company, has announced that they will be releasing the results from their latest phase II trial of Bryostatin, their experimental Alzheimer’s therapy drug.
This current set of trials began in January 2016, when 148 moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s patients were dosed at 26 different test sites all across the US.
Since then, Neurotrope has focused their efforts on monitoring these patients, and examining them for improvement on multiple scientific scales, including the Severe Impairment Battery Scale (SIB), and Activities of Daily Living (ADL) scale. Currently, the release of first-wave data for these trials is scheduled for Monday, the 1st of May – and initial buzz seems promising.
Bryostatin was originally developed as a chemotherapy drug – but after a 2015 study showed that a patient affected by a severe case of Alzheimer’s showed major improvements in motor function, speech, and directed attentional focus, it became the subject of renewed interest in the Alzheimer’s community, and Neurotrope began to study its effects on Alzheimer’s patients in earnest.
While the complexity and difficulty of Alzheimer's treatment makes it unlikely that this will be a “silver bullet” drug, there is certainly potential for Bryostatin to become a commonplace treatment among Alzheimer's patients.
If these clinical trials show that Bryostatin is effective not just in specific Alzheimer's patients, but among a larger population of genetically diverse individuals, the ramifications could be huge, and pave the way for an eventual cure for this terrible disease.
Unsaturated Fatty Acids In Brain Linked To Alzheimer’s In Recent Study
As anyone with a friend, family member, or loved one affected by Alzheimer’s knows, one of the hardest parts of dealing with the disease is accepting that we still don’t know much about it.
Despite many advances in medical technology and research (many of which we talk about every month in our newsletter!), there is still no scientific consensus on which factors have the biggest impact on a person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s.
However, it’s been estimated that only around 5% of the population are genetically predisposed toward developing the disease – most scientists agree that the disease is usually caused by some combination of lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors, all of which can have a negative effect on the brain over time.
These risk factors have long been an area of study – because Alzheimer’s has no cure as of yet, mitigation and reduction of risk in the elderly are the primary methods of preventative treatment.
A recent study has revealed a surprising possibility – that unsaturated fatty acids (UFAs) in the brain could be responsible for amyloid and plaque buildup on the brain, causing Alzheimer’s. In the study, a group of 43 seniors was selected for cognitive assessment, and their brains were tested for various neuropathologies during an autopsy.
During their examinations, they found that 14 subjects had healthy brains, 15 had a buildup of amyloids and plaque – but no memory problems – and 13 had Alzheimer’s disease.
While studying the brain, they analyzed its metabolite levels, and found a shocking result – subjects who suffered from AD had much higher levels of UFAs, including oleic acid, linoleic acid, and four others.
This suggests that people who have difficulty metabolizing unsaturated fatty acids could be an at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and could aid researchers in determining the primary risk factors behind the development of the disease.
However, the scientists behind the study are not shouting “Eureka” just yet – since the study was only observational, correlation does not imply causation – it’s possible that Alzheimer’s causes dis-regulation of UFAs – rather than UFAs causing Alzheimer’s.
Still, it’s a promising area of study. And when it comes to understanding and studying Alzheimer's, all news is good news!
Autoimmune Diseases Increase The Risk Factors Of Developing Dementia And Alzheimer’s, English Study Reports
A recent study that analyzed 1.8 million hospital cases in England has revealed a surprising result. The study has shown that autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, and even psoriasis can lead to an increased risk of developing dementia – and a slightly increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
This study backs up a previous study performed at Ireland-based Trinity College – the study found that “lifestyle diseases” such as diabetes and obesity could cause chronic inflammation of the brain. Obesity and diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels, as well as a build-up of two proteins that can cause the brain to become inflamed, causing damage to neurons and brain tissue.
With those results in mind, this study may not be too surprising – autoimmune disorders are all caused by the body’s natural immune system overreacting or misdiagnosing threats, causing it to attack healthy tissues and organs, and increasing inflammation of body tissues.
The risk of developing dementia correlates with the severity of disease – severe autoimmune disorders like psoriasis and lupus increased the risk of Alzheimer’s by 29 percent and 56 percent, respectively.
It’s important to note that, while these findings mainly relate to vascular dementia – dementia caused blood vessel damage – they could also correlate to Alzheimer’s disease, though at a lower rate. Autoimmune diseases cause an overall 29% increase in the risk of developing dementia, but only a 6% increase in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Another interesting finding in the study was that patients with diseases like rheumatoid arthritis were actually less likely to develop dementia – as much as 10% lower risk. The current hypothesis supporting this fact is that RA patients tend to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, which could lower their levels of overall inflammation – therefore preventing dementia.
As research continues, the link between inflammation and dementia seems to be growing – and though there is no scientific consensus yet, many scientists see this area of study as promising, and continued research could reveal further information that could be used to treat and prevent dementia.
Stay Ahead Of The Disease – New Genetic “Scoring System” Helps Predict The Onset Of Alzheimer’s And Dementia
A new genetic test has been developed that could help predict if – or when – you’ll get dementia. A team of scientists and researchers at the University of California has created a comprehensive system that can give individuals “risk scores” that chart their risks of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life.
This scoring system uses genetic risk factors for the disease and family history of dementia and Alzheimer's to develop a specialized “fingerprint” called a PHS or “polygenic hazard score”. This score is then combined with statistical data of incidence rates among specific population groups, providing a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s risk factors.
The initial results are quite promising. Two separate groups of individuals were analyzed using this method, and when they were verified against independent groups, it was found that the calculations predicted Alzheimer’s risk quite effectively, with the highest-rated individuals having a vastly increased risk of developing the disease.
New tests and methods of discovering Alzheimer’s risk – as well as the likely time of onset – are invaluable when determining care strategies. Being able to decide on a clear path forward and developing a comprehensive care regimen – including at-home assistance, cessation of driving, and so on – is crucial to maintaining a great quality of life in those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Earlier detection can help this transition occur naturally, and provide better overall patient outcomes – so this research is quite promising for the world of dementia and Alzheimer’s care!
Oasis Dementia Care – Your Ally In The Fight Against Alzheimer’s
The 191st Time's The Charm – Could Leukine Be The Next Miracle Drug For Alzheimer’s Treatment?
Alzheimer’s has always been a historically difficult disease to treat. Almost all treatment focuses only on prevention and managing care after Alzheimer’s and dementia are contracted – there has never yet been a pharmaceutical solution that has proven effective for the treatment of the disease – though over 190 separate research projects have attempted to find one.
But this could be about to change. A team of researchers at Colorado University’s Anschutz Medical Campus have been conducting some research that may hold the key to not only manage the disease – but reverse its course altogether, and provide a true cure for Alzheimer’s.
“Leukine” is the name of the drug that researchers are testing at Colorado University, and safety trials to determine the efficacy of this pharmaceutical product are currently ongoing at the university.
These trials have revealed that Leukine is safe for use in Alzheimer’s patients – other pharmaceutical solutions have often had negative side effects such as brain swelling and bleeding.
The success of an Alzheimer’s drug depends on its ability to fight the true cause of Alzheimer’s – amyloid plaque deposits that form on the outside of the brain’s nerve cells, and Leukine has shown great promise to do so.
A Leukine compound was injected directly into one hemisphere of the brain of a mouse with dementia – after less than seven days, more than half of the plaque present on its brain cells disappeared entirely, while the untreated section remained the same.
This process occurred without any of the usual negative side effects associated with Alzheimer's, and even has shown that it can actually help the brain repair itself – not only curing the disease, but potentially reversing its ill effects.
Leukine has been used for treating bone-marrow transplant patients since 1991, but this novel application has never been tried before. If it proves safe, Leukine could be used to treat Alzheimer’s patients in less than two years, if approved by the FDA.
Could High Blood Sugar Be Linked To A Higher Risk Of Alzheimer’s?
Interesting new research is being done at the University of Bath, which may indicate that constantly high blood sugar could be a contributing factor to Alzheimer's. We’ve long known that high blood sugar can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and many other health issues – but the link between high blood sugar and Alzheimer’s has not yet been fully studied.
In the study, researchers from the University of Bath worked with researchers from the King’s College London Wolfson Centre for Age Related Diseases.
They compared brain samples of people with Alzheimer's to those without the disease, and discovered that the process of “glycation” – which happens when excess sugars in the bloodstream damage the body’s cells – can damage an enzyme called MIF (macrophage migration inhibitory factor) which is heavily involved in both immune response and the regulation of insulin.
Crucially, MIF is involved in protecting glial brain cells from the build-up of abnormal proteins – which is the primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Because glycation from excessive blood sugar damages MIF, the body’s ability to fight off protein build-up in the brain is reduced, which can further influence the progression of Alzheimer’s.
The researchers believe that this heavy glycation could be a contributing factor in the “tipping point” of developing Alzheimer’s, and that closely monitoring blood sugar could be helpful in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Caregiving And Dementia – How Extensive Caregiver Support Can Improve The Outcomes Of Dementia Patients
A new study being done in Nebraska by the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco is seeking to improve the outcomes of dementia patients not with advanced treatment solutions or pharmaceuticals – but by elevating the ability of caregivers to provide high quality care to their loved ones, using a specialized system of “Care Team Navigators”.
This system, known as “The Dementia Care Ecosystem” is designed to support caregivers in four crucial ways, allowing them to more effectively deliver care to their loved ones who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s. These four areas of focus are:
The idea of the “care team navigator” is crucial to this new caregiving system. A care team navigator is not a formal health care provider, but a specialist who is trained to address the wide-ranging issues that affect caregivers and their loved ones. They can aid caregivers in dealing with daily frustration, setting up family services and doctor’s appointments, and notifying emergency services, doctors, or nurses about patient concerns.
These care team navigators are available 24/7, and are able to manage multiple teams of in-home caregivers at once, reducing the administrative burden on caregivers. By doing so, the stress and pain of being a caregiver are significantly reduced – and early results indicate that far fewer caregivers are suffering from excessive stress or depression.
Early data has also showed better results for Alzheimer’s patients – fewer falls, emergency room visits, and lower required amounts of medication as compared to a year before the study occurred.
This innovative solution could certainly be helpful in the future, as the number of Alzheimer’s patients continues to grow, and offers a great way to help deal with family caregiving if you do not wish to put your loved one in a specialized care facility.
The Humble Mushroom – Could Eating Fungi Reduce The Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s?
A recent study done by the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has shown some shocking results – mushrooms could help keep your brain healthy, and delay the onset of Alzheimer's by increasing nerve growth in the brain, and preventing inflammation – two common causes of dementia.
The study involved a batch of mice who were fed 11 types of edible and medicinal mushrooms, and had their brains and behavior studied to see the effects of the mushrooms.
While not every mushroom had powerful anti-inflammatory effects, several did, including the reishi mushroom, the cordyceps mushroom, and the lion’s mane mushroom.
The full study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, concluded that mushrooms were a “functional food” – a food with ingredients that have a potential positive effect beyond simple nutrition.
The study reads, in part, “It is very likely that a dietary intake of mushroom or mushroom-based extracts might have beneficial effects on human health and improve brain function.”
And though the these mushrooms are considerably more rare than your average garden mushroom or portabello, the continued research into dietary solutions to stave off Alzheimer's is promising, indeed.
Scientists Stop, Reverse Alzheimer’s Related Brain Damage In Mice
Alzheimer’s has long been known as one of only a handful of diseases that cannot be treated – only prevented or delayed if caught early enough.
But as science continues on and the search for a cure for Alzheimer’s continues, it’s certain that some breakthroughs will occur – and researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in Missouri may have happened upon such a breakthrough.
The team of researchers, led by Dr. Timothy Miller, a neurology professor at the university, is based on studying “tau protein” – a protein compound that is essential to the healthy function of the brain.
Essentially, tau proteins help the information superhighway of the brain stay on track – think of them as the barriers and guardrails that help keep the “cars” of your neurons on the highway.
In a brain with healthy tau protein, neurons function well and normally – but Alzheimer’s causes tau protein to break down into what is known as a “toxic tangle”. These jumbles of unhealthy tau proteins can lead to dementia, as well as a host of other neurodegenerative diseases.
The study was published in the medical journal Science Translational Medicine, and was conducted over a period of over a year on mice that were genetically modified to be prone to these “toxic tangles”. By the age of 6 months, these mice develop tangles, and they show signs of neural degeneration by the age of 9 months.
The researchers treated these mice with an antisense oligonucleotide in an effort to reduce the levels of harmful tau tangles. This single-strand nucleic acid was synthesized by these researchers for therapeutic purposes.
After giving the mice the nucleic acid once a day for a month, the results were shocking – the antisense oligonucleotide interrupted the flow of genetic information provided by RNA between proteins and DNA, and destroyed the ability of the RNA to create new, dangerous tau protein tangles.
Total tau RNA, total amounts of tau protein, and the number of tau protein tangles in the brain had been reduced, leading not only to a stop of these dangerous protein tangles – but a reversal, and an associated improvement in social, mental, and cognitive function in the mice.
The treated mice lived for a month longer than a control group that did not receive treatment, and appeared happier and healthier, with no sign of hippocampal shrinkage or neuronal death – both common among these genetically modified mice at the age of 9 months.
While it will be a very long time until this treatment can be approved to be tested on humans, it does have some serious promise as a medical breakthrough, and could lead to an eventual cure for Alzheimer’s. Exciting times, indeed.
Alzheimer’s Could Be Identified Earlier – With Sniff Tests
For several years, the link between Alzheimer’s and loss of smell has been known. The so-called “peanut butter test” can be a useful way to determine if a person is suffering from Alzheimer’s, as a failing sense of smell can be a sign of dementia and degenerative diseases.
However, a recent study towards Alzheimer's and smell took a much more scientific approach. The study, performed by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has shown promising results in identifying both early-onset Alzheimer’s and MCI – Mild Cognitive Impairment, a known precursor disease to Alzheimer's.
The study involved a total of 728 elderly persons who were evaluated by neurologists with a standard battery of cognitive tests to determine if they were healthy, suffered from MCI, or had Alzheimer’s dementia.
The ability of these persons to smell was then studied with a 16-scent test, commercially known as the “Sniffin’ Sticks Odor Identification Test.”
A team led by Dr. Roalf of the University of Pennsylvania reviewed the results of the tests separately from the other neurologists. When they relied on the results of the standard battery of cognitive tests, they had a 75% accuracy rate at placing each person in the correct category.
However, when the cognitive tests were combined with the smell tests, their accuracy rate rose to 87% – quite the large difference. Given the drastic change, it’s quite possible that standardized smell tests could become common for older adults, and offer a way to help detect not only Alzheimer's, but its precursor disease, MCI
exercise, Dementia, and You ~ Can you prevent Brain Deterioration by staying active
A recent study in Neurology, a leading scientific journal, has shown a strong link between exercise and dementia which may lead to some promising new prevention methods. In the study, Teresa Liu-Ambrose, Associate Professor and the Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia, details the effects that regular, moderate exercise can have at preventing vascular cognitive impairment – the second most common cause of dementia, behind Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Ambrose conducted her study over a period of six months, with over 70 elderly subjects who were already dealing with the effects of vascular cognitive impairment. Half of these participants participated in a one-hour exercise class of low-to-moderate exertion three times each week for six months, while the other half – the control group – received only information about vascular cognitive impairment and a healthy diet, but did not partake in any study-sanctioned physical activity.
The results were striking. After the six months of the study were up, both the exercise group and control group underwent a series of tests on critical thinking skills. The participants who exercised regularly showed a small improvement over those who did not – it wasn’t a huge margin, but equaled the results that some other studies using different pharmaceutical drugs achieved, and the participants who exercised also showed better overall physical health – including an easier time walking and lowered heart rates and blood pressure.
Dr. Ambrose suggests that this improvement is due to a byproduct created in the brain by exercise – Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF for short. This growth factor stimulates neuron growth, differentiation, and survival, and it has also been shown that exercise can stimulate and grow the hippocampus, supporting better overall brain health.
According to Ambrose, it’s important to begin exercising often, not when vascular cognitive impairment has already begun, but to participate in a moderate exercise regimen consistently earlier in life, and maintain it as we age.
Though dementia is a complex subject, and not all causes of it are totally understood, this study suggests that brain health certainly is related to overall health – and it would be a great idea to take this idea to heart, and see what we can do to raise our overall health and take better care of our brains.
The Fact and Statistics about Alzheimer's ~ A growing Problem