This week we take a brief look at the latest happenings in Alzheimer’s research – from potential breakthroughs in early diagnosis and memory retrieval, to news on possible new Alzheimer’s causal factors and potential super foods.
New Testing for Early Prevention: It’s known that Alzheimer’s therapies and medicines are more effective in the disease’s early stages. Researchers have hit on a new blood test that’s showing promise for earlier detection of Alzheimer’s by measuring insulin resistance in the brain. “Insulin resistance is a major central nervous system metabolic abnormality in Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Edward Goetzl, the senior author of the study. “As insulin resistance is a known condition in type 2 diabetes mellitus and is treatable with several classes of existing drugs, these treatments may be useful as part of a multi-agent program for Alzheimer’s disease.”
Did you remember your blueberries? Long thought to possibly lower the risk of cancer and heart disease, blueberries are now being looked at as a possible factor in delaying dementia. The fruit is loaded with anthocyanins, flavonoids that have been shown to improve cognition in animals. In a recent study conducted at the University of Cincinnati, a sampling of adults 68 and older were given either freeze-dried blueberry powder or placebo powder, once a week for 16 weeks. By the end of the testing period, those who’d ingested blueberry powder demonstrated improved memory and greater access to words and concepts. Researchers soon plan on testing the effect of blueberry consumption on those 50-65 who are considered at high risk for Alzheimer’s.
New NIH Consortium Forms: There’s a growing accumulation of data that indicates a connection between vascular disease and Alzheimer’s. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have formed a consortium made of interdisciplinary teams to look at the body’s vascular system on a molecular level, and explore possible causal factors influencing Alzheimer’s onset and progression. Scientists already recognize heart disease and Type 2 diabetes as risk factors; this new effort hopes to take that knowledge to a much deeper level and possibly uncover new promising therapies for prevention and treatment.
Can Lost Memories be Recovered? Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking aspects of Alzheimer’s is progressive memory loss; and since the 1980s, doctors have believed these memories were stored improperly and gone forever. But breakthrough research out of MIT offers what could be a seismic shift in understanding around Alzheimer’s and memory. Working with laboratory animals, the MIT research team was able to spark memory retrieval in Alzheimer’s mice, tagging cells in the area of their brains that encodes short-term recall. Prior to tagging, those mice would receive a mild shock when entering a test area, and yet re-enter right away, forgetting they’d ever experienced discomfort. Once those areas of their brains were tagged, the mice developed a healthy fear of the testing site (avoiding it after one shock), indicating successful memory retrieval. While researchers recognize they are years away from applying these findings to human function, they’re convinced they’ve achieved a significant breakthrough that could have enormous impact on Alzheimer’s treatment.
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