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  • richardmitnick 10:34 am on January 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A healthy lifestyle may help you sidestep Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s disease, , ,   

    From HMS: “A healthy lifestyle may help you sidestep Alzheimer’s” 

    Harvard University

    Harvard University

    Harvard Medical School

    Harvard Medical School

    January 09, 2017
    Heidi Godman

    1
    No image caption. No image credit

    January is an inspiring time to make resolutions about eating a healthy diet and exercising more, maybe because you want to look or feel better. Personally, those reasons aren’t always enough to keep me from skipping a workout if I have too much on my schedule. I guess I’m a typical mom, putting my family and my job first.

    But this year, I have plenty of renewed inspiration to put my health first, and it’s the kind that will keep me up at night if I don’t stick to it: evidence suggests that adopting healthier lifestyle habits may help you thwart or even prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia runs in my family.

    About Alzheimer’s

    Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is characterized by the accumulation of two types of protein in the brain: tangles (tau) and plaques (amyloid-beta). Eventually, Alzheimer’s kills brain cells and takes people’s lives.

    What causes Alzheimer’s? We still aren’t sure. “For 1% of all cases, there are three genes that determine definitively whether you will have Alzheimer’s, and all three relate to amyloid-beta production, which in these cases is likely the cause of Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, associate medical director of clinical trials at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “For the other 99%, amyloid and tau are closely associated with Alzheimer’s, but many things may contribute to the development of symptoms, such as inflammation in the brain, vascular risk factors, and lifestyle.”

    Promising evidence

    So far, evidence suggests that several healthy habits may help ward off Alzheimer’s. Consider the following steps.

    Exercise. “The most convincing evidence is that physical exercise helps prevent the development of Alzheimer’s or slow the progression in people who have symptoms,” says Dr. Marshall. “The recommendation is 30 minutes of moderately vigorous aerobic exercise, three to four days per week.”

    Eat a Mediterranean diet. “This has been shown to help thwart Alzheimer’s or slow its progression. A recent study showed that even partial adherence to such a diet is better than nothing, which is relevant to people who may find it difficult to fully adhere to a new diet,” says Dr. Marshall. The diet includes fresh vegetables and fruits; whole grains; olive oil; nuts; legumes; fish; moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, and dairy; moderate amounts of red wine; and red meat only sparingly.

    Get enough sleep. “Growing evidence suggests that improved sleep can help prevent Alzheimer’s and is linked to greater amyloid clearance from the brain,” says Dr. Marshall. Aim for seven to eight hours per night.

    Not as certain

    We have some — but not enough — evidence that the following lifestyle choices help prevent Alzheimer’s.

    Learn new things. “We think that cognitively stimulating activities may be helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s, but the evidence for their benefit is often limited to improvement in a learned task, such as a thinking skills test, that does not generalize to overall improvement in thinking skills and activities of daily living,” says Dr. Marshall.

    Connect socially. “We think that greater social contact helps prevent Alzheimer’s,” explains Dr. Marshall, but so far, “there is only information from observational studies.”

    Drink — but just a little. There is conflicting evidence about the benefit of moderate alcohol intake (one drink per day for women, one or two for men) and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. “It is thought that wine in particular, and not other forms of alcohol, may be helpful, but this has not been proved,” says Dr. Marshall.

    What you should do

    Even though we don’t have enough evidence that all healthy lifestyle choices prevent Alzheimer’s, we do know they can prevent other chronic problems. For example, limiting alcohol intake can help reduce the risk for certain cancers, such as breast cancer. So it’s wise to make as many healthy lifestyle choices as you can. “They’re all beneficial, and if they wind up helping you avoid Alzheimer’s, all the better,” says Dr. Marshall.

    But don’t feel like you need to rush into a ramped-up routine of living a healthier lifestyle. All it takes if one small change at a time, such as:

    exercising an extra day per week.
    getting rid of one unhealthy food from your diet.
    going to bed half an hour earlier, or shutting off electronic gadgets half an hour earlier than normal, to help you wind down.
    listening to a new kind of music, or listening to a podcast about a topic you’re unfamiliar with.
    or having lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in a while.

    Once you make one small change, try making another. Over time, they will add up. My change is that I’m going to add 15 more minutes to my exercise routine; that way, I’ll rack up more exercise minutes per week, and I won’t feel bad if I have to skip a workout now and then. By putting my health first, I’ll be in better shape for my family and my job, and hopefully, I’ll be better off in older age.

    See the full article here .

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    HMS campus

    Established in 1782, Harvard Medical School began with a handful of students and a faculty of three. The first classes were held in Harvard Hall in Cambridge, long before the school’s iconic quadrangle was built in Boston. With each passing decade, the school’s faculty and trainees amassed knowledge and influence, shaping medicine in the United States and beyond. Some community members—and their accomplishments—have assumed the status of legend. We invite you to access the following resources to explore Harvard Medical School’s rich history.

    Harvard University campus

    Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, established in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was named after the College’s first benefactor, the young minister John Harvard of Charlestown, who upon his death in 1638 left his library and half his estate to the institution. A statue of John Harvard stands today in front of University Hall in Harvard Yard, and is perhaps the University’s best known landmark.

    Harvard University has 12 degree-granting Schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The University has grown from nine students with a single master to an enrollment of more than 20,000 degree candidates including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. There are more than 360,000 living alumni in the U.S. and over 190 other countries.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:35 pm on January 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alzheimer’s disease, , , Researchers identify different 'types' of Alzheimer’s based on protein clumps in the brain,   

    From Science Alert: “Researchers identify different ‘types’ of Alzheimer’s based on protein clumps in the brain” 

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    4 JAN 2017
    JOSH HRALA

    1
    Juan Gaertner/Shutterstock

    Alzheimer’s isn’t just one disease.

    An international team of researchers has found evidence that the specific type of protein clumps in a person’s brain might help identify different ‘types’ of Alzheimer’s disease.

    These findings might help future researchers and doctors accurately identify different subtypes of the disease, making treatments and diagnostic practices more specialised, pushing us one step closer to conquering Alzheimer’s.

    While you might not have heard of different ‘types’ of Alzheimer’s before, researchers have previously found that the disease – which was once thought of as one single ailment – operates differently based on what subtype of the disease a person has.

    In short, there are three known types of Alzheimer’s: typical Alzheimer’s, posterior cortical atrophy Alzheimer’s, and rapidly progressive Alzheimer’s.

    “Because the presentation varies from person to person, there has been suspicion for years that Alzheimer’s represents more than one illness,” said Dale Bredesen, from the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the new study but did earlier work to identify the three subtypes.

    “The important implications of this are that the optimal treatment may be different for each group, there may be different causes, and, for future clinical trials, it may be helpful to study specific groups separately.”

    Earlier studies like the one Bredesen was involved with suggested that these subtypes might reveal themselves in how amyloid-beta peptides self-assemble into protein fibres known as fibrils in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s.

    Now, a team of researchers working with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US and other agencies have found that these fibrils – which you can think of as ‘protein clumps’ – do, in fact, correlate with the different subtypes of the disease.

    To come to that conclusion, the team – led by Robert Tycko, from the NIH – analysed the fibrils inside 37 different tissue samples from 18 individuals with each individual having one of the three subtypes of Alzheimer’s.

    When complete, the team found that the fibrils housed inside the tissue samples had a specific structure for those with typical Alzheimer’s and posterior cortical atrophy, meaning that the presence of these structures could be a go-to indicator of these two types.

    Those suffering from the rapidly progressive form of the disease, on the other hand, had a multitude of fibril structures, making it a lot harder to identify because there wasn’t one specific structure belonging to it.

    What these findings suggest is that doctors might be able to analyse tissue samples from patients who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to accurately judge which subtype of the disease they have.

    That would mean they could then potentially administer a more suitable treatment for that specific type, offering new hope to those suffering from the disease.

    Also, understanding how the three subtypes differ could lead to better, more specific treatments that can help us push forward to finding a cure for the disease in general.

    “A better understanding of the neurotoxic amyloid-beta aggregates and of correlations between their structure and disease subtypes might help the development of new diagnostic tests and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease,” the team said.

    It’s important to note, though, that the sample size used for the recent study was quite small, with the team only analysing tissue from 18 individuals. It will take a more comprehensive pool of data before any conclusions can be drawn, though this is definitely a good first step.

    In the US alone, about 5.4 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s, costing individuals and families up to US$5,000 per year for care and costing the economy at large a whopping $236 billion per year. Finding a cure, or at least better treatments, is a major pursuit for scientists across the globe.

    The team’s work was published in Nature.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:30 am on December 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alzheimer’s disease, , ,   

    From Vanderbilt: “Investigational new drug for Alzheimer’s scheduled for first study in humans” 

    Vanderbilt U Bloc

    Vanderbilt University

    Dec. 27, 2016
    Bill Snyder

    Vanderbilt University scientists have received notification from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that testing in humans may proceed for an investigational new drug for Alzheimer’s disease after more than 10 years of research by scientists at Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

    It is relatively uncharted territory for an academic drug discovery group to take a molecule from the laboratory setting to the clinical trials stage.

    “The movement to the clinical phase of the research is the result of tireless colleagues reaching across disciplines in pursuit of the shared goal of hoping to someday improve the lives of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and possibly other brain disorders, such as schizophrenia,” said Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente, Ph.D. “This work exactly illustrates the critical role that basic science conducted in partnership with a world-class medical center can play in advancing knowledge in an attempt to fight a devastating disease.”

    For Alzheimer’s disease, the aim is for the investigational drug to target major pathologies of the disease and selectively activate a key receptor in the brain. The Vanderbilt researchers believe that the current standard of care for Alzheimer’s disease, cholinesterase inhibitors, has a different mechanism of action. They are hoping to establish through future clinical testing that the molecule is broadly effective across a number of cognitive and neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia.

    1
    P. Jeffrey Conn, Ph.D.

    “This is the first instance I am aware of where an academic drug discovery group moved a molecule designed to hopefully treat a chronic brain disorder all the way from early discovery to human trials without there being, at some point along the way, a pharmaceutical partner,” said P. Jeffrey Conn, Ph.D., Lee E. Limbird Professor of Pharmacology in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery (VCNDD).

    “And that really is crossing what people refer to all of the time as the ‘Valley of Death,’ where good research discoveries have a hard time moving into the clinical testing phase due to lack of funding,” he said. “Importantly, at this early stage, the FDA has only granted permission to assess potential safety of this investigational new drug in healthy volunteers” said Conn. “We cannot predict the outcome, but if these studies are successful in demonstrating that the investigational drug can be safely administered to humans, this would pave the way to allow filing of additional applications with the FDA to seek permission to advance to testing for efficacy in improving cognitive function in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly schizophrenia or other brain disorders. While we cannot predict the outcome of any future safety or efficacy studies, this decision by FDA allowing clinical research to begin represents a major milestone in allowing us to hopefully provide answers to those critical questions in the future.”

    2
    Craig W. Lindsley, Ph.D.

    VCNDD Co-Director Craig W. Lindsley, Ph.D., director of Medicinal Chemistry and William K. Warren, Jr. Professor of Medicine, said Phase I testing will assess drug safety and tolerability in healthy volunteer participants, a process that could take a year. If successful, the Phase II and III studies would include efficacy assessments in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and could take three to five years to complete.

    “We are hoping to address what we see as an unmet medical need,” Lindsley said. “For Alzheimer’s patients, the standard of care for symptomatic treatment remains cholinesterase inhibitors, which are 25 years old at this point. There hasn’t been any real scientific advancement in this field in a long time.”

    Lindsley and Conn credit The William K. Warren Foundation for its philanthropic investments along the way to make clinical trials for this investigational drug a reality.

    “One of the most challenging things about doing this in an academic environment is funding,” Lindsley said. “Every step requires funding and if there is a delay or break in funding, then everything sits idle and potentially innovative approaches for patient care do not advance.”

    “Being matched with the Warrens happened serendipitously. They have invested so much in our programs, and it is wonderful to show them progress on their investments,” he said. “Without the financial support from the Warrens, this investigational drug would not be poised to enter human clinical trials.”

    The William K. Warren Foundation Chief Executive Officer John-Kelly Warren said he is gratified that FDA has allowed for the investigational drug to proceed to testing in human beings.

    “Although this is an important sequential milestone, the only milestone that matters to us is the hope that one day we will learn that this investigational new drug has positively and safely changed the life of a patient suffering from a brain disorder such as schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s disease,” Warren said.

    “That day will warrant a celebration felt in the heavens. Until then, we are prepared to support the VCNDD research team until they can deliver the necessary results,” he said.

    A NIH National Cooperative Drug Discovery/Development grant funded the early basic science and discovery of this investigational drug and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation and Harrington Discovery Institute helped support some of the key toxicity studies that FDA required, Conn said.

    “The investigational new drug has the potential to improve cognitive functions with fewer unwanted side effects. This could someday be an important advance for the treatment of cognitive deficits in psychiatric disorders and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Joshua Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which co-funded the research.

    Conn and Lindsley said Vanderbilt’s “team science” approach included contributions from the director of Translational Pharmacology and Development for the VCNDD and Assistant Professor Carrie K. Jones, Ph.D., who coordinated the IND drafting, submission, and subsequent development into Phase I, director of Molecular Pharmacology for the VCNDD and Research Associate Professor of Pharmacology Colleen Niswender, Ph.D., for the molecular pharmacology; Research Assistant Professor of Pharmacology Jerri Rook, Ph.D., for the behavioral studies; and Research Assistant Professor of Pharmacology Thomas Bridges, Ph.D., and Research Assistant Professor of Pharmacology Anna Blobaum, Ph.D., for drug metabolism and pharmacokinetic profiling.

    Paul Newhouse, M.D., director of the Center for Cognitive Medicine at VUMC and Jim Turner Professor in Cognitive Disorders, is expected to lead the upcoming clinical study funded in part by the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.

    See the full article here .

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    Vanderbilt Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 12:59 pm on September 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alzheimer’s disease, , ,   

    From MSU: “Alzheimer’s beginnings prove to be a sticky situation” 

    Michigan State Bloc

    Michigan State University

    Sept. 12, 2016
    Layne Cameron
    Lisa Lapidus

    1
    MSU’s Lisa Lapidus uses laser technology to reveal a common trait of Alzheimer’s disease – a sticky situation that could lead to new targets for medicinal treatments. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

    Laser technology has revealed a common trait of Alzheimer’s disease – a sticky situation that could lead to new targets for medicinal treatments.

    Alzheimer’s statistics are always staggering. The neurodegenerative disease affects an estimated 5 million Americans, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia, it claims more lives than breast and prostate cancers combined, and its incidence is rising.

    To help fight this deadly disease, Lisa Lapidus, Michigan State University professor of physics and astronomy, has found that peptides, or strings of amino acids, related to Alzheimer’s wiggle at dangerous speeds prior to clumping or forming the plaques commonly associated with Alzheimer’s.

    “Strings of 40 amino acids are the ones most-commonly found in healthy individuals, but strings of 42 are much more likely to clump,” said Lapidus, who published the results in the current issue of ChemPhysChem. “We found that the peptides’ wiggle speeds, the step before aggregation, was five times slower for the longer strings, which leaves plenty of time to stick together rather than wiggle out of the way.”

    This so-called “wiggle” precedes clumping, or aggregating, which is the first step of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Lapidus pioneered the use of lasers to study the speed of protein reconfiguration before aggregation.

    If reconfiguration is much faster or slower than the speed at which proteins bump into each other, aggregation is slow. If reconfiguration is the same speed, however, aggregation is fast. She calls the telltale wiggle that she discovered the “dangerous middle.”

    “The dangerous middle is the speed in which clumping happens fastest,” Lapidus said. “But we were able to identify some ways that we can bump that speed into a safer zone.”

    Lapidus and her team of MSU scientists, including Srabasti Acharya (now a biotechnology researcher in the San Francisico Bay area), Kinshuk Srivastava and Suresh Babu Nagarajan, found that increasing pH levels kept the amino acids wiggling at fast, safe speeds. Also, a naturally occurring molecule, curcumin (from the spice turmeric), kept the peptide out of the dangerous middle.

    While this is not a viable drug candidate because it does not easily cross the blood-brain barrier, the filter that controls what chemicals reach the brain, they do provide strong leads that could lead to medicinal breakthroughs.

    Along with new drug targets, Lapidus’ research provides a potential model of early detection. By the time patients show symptoms and go to a doctor, aggregation already has a stronghold in their brains. Policing amino acids for wiggling at dangerous speeds could tip off doctors long before the patient begins to suffer from the disease.

    This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

    See the full article here .

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    Michigan State Campus

    Michigan State University (MSU) is a public research university located in East Lansing, Michigan, United States. MSU was founded in 1855 and became the nation’s first land-grant institution under the Morrill Act of 1862, serving as a model for future land-grant universities.

    MSU pioneered the studies of packaging, hospitality business, plant biology, supply chain management, and telecommunication. U.S. News & World Report ranks several MSU graduate programs in the nation’s top 10, including industrial and organizational psychology, osteopathic medicine, and veterinary medicine, and identifies its graduate programs in elementary education, secondary education, and nuclear physics as the best in the country. MSU has been labeled one of the “Public Ivies,” a publicly funded university considered as providing a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.

    Following the introduction of the Morrill Act, the college became coeducational and expanded its curriculum beyond agriculture. Today, MSU is the seventh-largest university in the United States (in terms of enrollment), with over 49,000 students and 2,950 faculty members. There are approximately 532,000 living MSU alumni worldwide.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:06 am on September 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alzheimer’s disease, , ,   

    From U Texas at Austin: “Chemists Garner New Insights into Protein Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease” 

    U Texas Austin bloc

    University of Texas at Austin

    07 September 2016
    Christine S Sinatra, Chemistry

    Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, has proven especially thorny for researchers: no cure has been found, nor has there been any treatment proven to slow the progression of the disease once it sets in. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists have taken a back-to-the-beginning approach, examining what happens at the start of a chain reaction that occurs before onset of the disease.

    1
    Amyloid plaques in a brain tissue sample. Credit: CDC/ Teresa Hammett.

    Dave Thirumalai, a theoretical chemist at The University of Texas at Austin and chair of the Department of Chemistry, and John Straub, a computational chemist at Boston University, teamed up to understand how a mutation in a normal protein can create amyloid β, a key contributor to Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid β builds up as a plaque in the brains of people with the disease, apparently leading to dementia and other symptoms.

    Amyloid β occurs when a protein found in healthy brains – called the amyloid precursor protein – gets cut by an enzyme in a particular way. Thirumalai and the other researchers wanted to understand what interactions were occurring in the membrane, and under which circumstances, to cause the precursor to be severed in such a way that it mutates into amyloid β.

    “Several enzymes cut this amyloid precursor protein, which is a very long protein spanning the membrane and outside the membrane,” Thirumalai said. “Some products of cutting it are benign, some are not. One can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.”

    The scientific team has spent several years examining how circumstances in the membrane can trigger the disease-causing mutation in the precursor protein. In the latest study, Thirumalai and colleagues report that variations in the membrane, as well as in the structure of the protein, can interact in ways that lead to production of amyloid β. Drug developers could potentially use insights from such studies to understand a new way to prevent the onset of the disease.

    Thirumalai and the other scientists plan to continue this line of exploration, including looking into how cholesterol affects the interactions between the membrane, the precursor protein, and the enzyme each time the disease-causing mutation occurs.

    “In order to devise a therapy against this process, you need to understand the life cycle of the amyloid precursor protein and figure out what it is doing and what the membrane is doing,” Thirumalai says. “These promising leads and new research that we and many others are exploring will hopefully in the end give us a better target for therapy. I’m cautiously optimistic about that.”

    The group’s research was funded with a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

    See the full article here .

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    U Texas Arlington Campus

    In 1839, the Congress of the Republic of Texas ordered that a site be set aside to meet the state’s higher education needs. After a series of delays over the next several decades, the state legislature reinvigorated the project in 1876, calling for the establishment of a “university of the first class.” Austin was selected as the site for the new university in 1881, and construction began on the original Main Building in November 1882. Less than one year later, on Sept. 15, 1883, The University of Texas at Austin opened with one building, eight professors, one proctor, and 221 students — and a mission to change the world. Today, UT Austin is a world-renowned higher education, research, and public service institution serving more than 51,000 students annually through 18 top-ranked colleges and schools.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:40 am on September 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Aducanumab drug trial, Alzheimer’s disease, , ,   

    From COSMOS: “Drug scrubs toxic clumps from Alzheimer’s brains” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS

    01 September 2016
    Belinda Smith

    1
    A computer illustration of a healthy brain cell (left), one with amyloid clumps (yellow, centre), and a dead cell being digested by microglia cells (red, right). New research in human brains show the drug aducanumab can clear away these amyloid clumps. JUAN GAERTNER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

    Aducanumab breaks down the harmful protein plaques that are thought to cause the neurodegenerative disease, but there’s still a long way to go before it’s found on the pharmacist’s shelf.

    A drug has been shown effective in clearing away toxic proteins in human brains thought to cause Alzheimer’s disease, a new study shows.

    But, researchers warn, there’s more work needed before the drug, called aducanumab, moves into the clinic – if it ever does.

    The work, published in Nature, is “tantalising, but not definitive”, says University College London neuroscientist John Hardy.

    Alzheimer’s disease is a common neurodegenerative disorder among older folk. One in nine people over the age of 65 years has the disease.

    Outwardly, symptoms include memory loss, confusion, dementia and mood changes. But the changes that occur within the brain are much sneakier, often accumulating for decades before any cognitive or emotional symptoms emerge.

    One of the main culprits is beta amyloid protein. Everyone has a little beta amyloid in their brain, but in Alzheimer’s disease it amasses as insoluble clumps – particularly in the hippocampus, the brain structure responsible for learning and memory.

    Cells surrounding these clumps shrink and die.

    But treatment isn’t as easy as scooping out the plaques. The brain’s first line of defence is the blood-brain barrier – a network of tightly packed cells that line blood vessels.

    So the challenge has been to find a drug that can pierce the blood-brain barrier, hunt down amyloid clumps and dismantle them for the brain’s own immune cells, called microglia, to dispose of.

    A recent promising candidate was aducanumab. It can breach the blood-brain barrier and it selectively binds to amyloid aggregates – can it help clear them away too?

    Boston-based pharmaceutical company Biogen and scientists from the US and Switzerland administered aducanumab to mice genetically engineered to over-produce amyloid. They found the drug bound to and shrank amyloid clumps in the mouse brain.

    It was a good start. But mice and humans, while similar in many ways, are very different in others. Could it work in people too – and could the dose affect how well it performed?

    The team recruited 165 patients diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s disease and randomly allocated them to one of four groups: a placebo group or one of three treatment groups that would receive monthly intravenous aducanumab for a year.

    The first treatment group was injected with three milligrams of aducanumab per kilogram of weight, the second received six milligrams per kilogram and the final, 10 milligrams per kilogram.

    Before beginning treatment (or placebo – patients weren’t told which group they were in) their brain was scanned using a technique called florbetapir PET, which detects brain amyloid levels.

    While this all sounds fantastic, the team admits the work has a number of limitations.

    As expected, all brains contained high levels of beta amyloid. After a year of treatment or placebo, they were scanned again.

    Those taking the placebo saw no change in brain amyloid levels. (No less, but no more either. This suggests the participants reached amyloid brain saturation before the trial began.)

    The aducanumab groups, though, had much of their amyloid cleared away. The effect was dose-dependent too, with those on the highest dose receiving the most benefits.

    While this all sounds fantastic, the team admits the work has a number of limitations.

    The initial cohort of 165 – which was from the US only – was whittled down to 125 over the course of the year. Some 20 participants experienced side effects such as headaches and dropped out.

    The researchers didn’t measure, to a great extent, how well the patients did cognitively after treatment either.

    A couple of tests showed a trend of slowing cognitive decline in the aducanumab-taking patients, but it was not definitive.

    “The good news is that by scanning patient brains the researchers show the drug is doing its job in reducing amyloid beta levels within the brain,” says Mark Dallas, a neuroscientist at the University of Reading in the UK.

    “However, because of the study design, it cannot tell us if there is any improvement in brain function of those that received the drug.”

    And while aducanumab targets beta amyloid, it ignores another aspect of Alzheimer’s pathology, tau aggregates.

    Tau proteins, which form part of a cell’s interior transport system, warp with the disease. These tau tangles disrupt a cell’s functioning and it eventually dies.

    Still, more clinical trials will elucidate aducanumab’s cognitive effects. It might be that clearing amyloid is enough to give patients a few more years of clear thinking.

    Indeed, the researchers write, phase 3 testing is in development. Statistically, the odds are stacked against them – only 0.4% of Alzheimer’s drugs make it past phase 3 trials. Only time will tell.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:26 pm on August 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alzheimer’s disease, , , ,   

    From U Cambridge: “Gene signature in healthy brains pinpoints the origins of Alzheimer’s disease” 

    U Cambridge bloc

    Cambridge University

    10 Aug 2016
    Sarah Collins
    sarah.collins@admin.cam.ac.uk

    1
    In healthy tissues, a gene expression signature associated with amyloid-beta and tau aggregation echoes the progression of AD well before the onset of the disease. Credit: J. Freer

    A specific gene expression pattern maps out which parts of the brain are most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease, decades before symptoms appear, and helps define the molecular origins of the disease.

    Researchers have discovered a gene signature in healthy brains that echoes the pattern in which Alzheimer’s disease spreads through the brain much later in life. The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, could help uncover the molecular origins of this devastating disease, and may be used to develop preventative treatments for at-risk individuals to be taken well before symptoms appear.

    The results, by researchers from the University of Cambridge, identified a specific signature of a group of genes in the regions of the brain which are most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease. They found that these parts of the brain are vulnerable because the body’s defence mechanisms against the proteins partly responsible for Alzheimer’s disease are weaker in these areas.

    Healthy individuals with this specific gene signature are highly likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in later life, and would most benefit from preventative treatments, if and when they are developed for human use.

    Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is characterised by the progressive degeneration of the brain. Not only is the disease currently incurable, but its molecular origins are still unknown. Degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease follows a characteristic pattern: starting from the entorhinal region and spreading out to all neocortical areas. What researchers have long wondered is why certain parts of the brain are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease than others.

    “To answer this question, what we’ve tried to do is to predict disease progression starting from healthy brains,” said senior author Professor Michele Vendruscolo of the Centre for Misfolding Diseases at Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry. “If we can predict where and when neuronal damage will occur, then we will understand why certain brain tissues are vulnerable, and get a glimpse at the molecular origins of Alzheimer’s disease.”

    One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the build-up of protein deposits, known as plaques and tangles, in the brains of affected individuals. These deposits, which accumulate when naturally-occurring proteins in the body fold into the wrong shape and stick together, are formed primarily of two proteins: amyloid-beta and tau.

    “We wanted to know whether there is something special about the way these proteins behave in vulnerable brain tissue in young individuals, long before the typical age of onset of the disease,” said Vendruscolo.

    Vendruscolo and his colleagues found that part of the answer lay within the mechanism of control of amyloid-beta and tau. Through the analysis of more than 500 samples of healthy brain tissues from the Allen Brain Atlas, they identified a signature of a group of genes in healthy brains. When compared with tissue from Alzheimer’s patients, the researchers found that this same pattern is repeated in the way the disease spreads in the brain.

    “Vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease isn’t dictated by abnormal levels of the aggregation-prone proteins that form the characteristic deposits in disease, but rather by the weaker control of these proteins in the specific brain tissues that first succumb to the disease,” said Vendruscolo.

    Our body has a number of effective defence mechanisms which protect it against protein aggregation, but as we age, these defences get weaker, which is why Alzheimer’s generally occurs in later life. As these defence mechanisms, collectively known as protein homeostasis systems, get progressively impaired with age, proteins are able to form more and more aggregates, starting from the tissues where protein homeostasis is not so strong in the first place.

    Earlier this year, the same researchers behind the current study identified a possible ‘neurostatin’ that could be taken by healthy individuals in order to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, in a similar way to how statins are taken to prevent heart disease. The current results suggest a way to exploit the gene signature to identify those individuals most at risk and who would most benefit from taking a neurostatin in earlier life.

    Although a neurostatin for human use is still quite some time away, a shorter-term benefit of these results may be the development of more effective animal models for the study of Alzheimer’s disease. Since the molecular origins of the disease have been unknown to date, it has been difficult to breed genetically modified mice or other animals that repeat the full pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common way for scientists to understand this or any disease in order to develop new treatments.

    “It is exciting to consider that the molecular origins identified here for Alzheimer’s may predict vulnerability for other diseases associated with aberrant aggregation – such as ALS, Parkinson’s and frontotemporal dementia,” said Rosie Freer, a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry and the study’s lead author. “I hope that these results will help drug discovery efforts – that by illuminating the origin of disease vulnerability, there will be a clearer target for those working to cure Alzheimer’s.”

    “The results of this particular study provide a clear link between the key factors that we have identified as underlying the aggregation phenomenon and the order in which the effects of Alzheimer’s disease are known to spread through the different regions of the brain,” said study co-author Professor Christopher Dobson, who is Master of St John’s College, Cambridge. “Linking the properties of specific protein molecules to the onset and spread of neuronal damage is a crucial step in the quest to find effective drugs to combat this dreadful neurodegenerative condition, and potentially other diseases related to protein misfolding and aggregation.”

    Addressing these problems represents the core programme of research of the Centre for Misfolding Diseases, which is directed by Chris Dobson, Tuomas Knowles and Michele Vendruscolo. The primary mission of the Centre is to develop a fundamental understanding of the molecular origins of the variety of disorders associated with the misfolding and aggregation of proteins, which include Parkinson’s disease, ALS and type II diabetes as well as Alzheimer’s disease, and then to use such understanding for the rational design of novel therapeutic strategies.

    See the full article here .

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    U Cambridge Campus

    The University of Cambridge (abbreviated as Cantab in post-nominal letters) is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, England. Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university. It grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with townsfolk. The two ancient universities share many common features and are often jointly referred to as “Oxbridge”.

    Cambridge is formed from a variety of institutions which include 31 constituent colleges and over 100 academic departments organised into six schools. The university occupies buildings throughout the town, many of which are of historical importance. The colleges are self-governing institutions founded as integral parts of the university. In the year ended 31 July 2014, the university had a total income of £1.51 billion, of which £371 million was from research grants and contracts. The central university and colleges have a combined endowment of around £4.9 billion, the largest of any university outside the United States. Cambridge is a member of many associations and forms part of the “golden triangle” of leading English universities and Cambridge University Health Partners, an academic health science centre. The university is closely linked with the development of the high-tech business cluster known as “Silicon Fen”.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:15 pm on July 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alzheimer’s disease, , New approach exposes 3D structure of Alzheimer’s proteins within the brain,   

    From Rockefeller: “New approach exposes 3D structure of Alzheimer’s proteins within the brain” 

    Rockefeller U bloc

    Rockefeller University

    July 14, 2016
    Katherine Fenz
    kfenz@rockefeller.edu
    212-327-7913

    1
    Above, amyloid-beta plaques appear as speckles within half of a brain of a mouse used to study the disease. Brain regions are coded by color, with the cerebellum in yellow, hippocampus in blue, thalamus in purple, striatum in red, and cortex in green.

    Alzheimer’s disease clouds memory, dims the mind, and distorts behavior. Its ravages also show up within the physical structure of the brain, perhaps most prominently as sticky clumps of a naturally occurring but harmful protein called amyloid-β.

    A team at The Rockefeller University used a new approach, known as iDISCO, that makes brain tissue transparent to permit the capture of detailed three-dimensional views of amyloid-β plaques within mouse and human brains. Their results are described July 14 in Cell Reports.

    Thomas Liebmann, the lead author, and his colleagues also used iDISCO to examine small blocks of frozen tissue from deceased Alzheimer’s patients, and found that the human plaques were larger and more complex than those from the mice. This discovery could aid researchers in establishing different categories for the disease based on a patient’s symptoms and the plaques within his or her brain. The relationship between plaques and dementia is poorly understood currently; the two do not always occur together.

    “A better understanding of these plaques, as well as other key features of Alzheimer’s in the brain, might contribute to efforts to develop better targeted drugs, or allow us to rethink the drugs we have now—that’s what we hope for,” says corresponding author Marc Flajolet, a research assistant professor in Paul Greengard’s Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience.

    This work was done in collaboration with Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s Laboratory of Brain Development and Repair and with assistance from the university’s Bio-Imaging Resource Center.

    Funding statement: This work was supported by the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, the NIH (NIA grant AG09464), and the Empire State Stem Cell Fund (NYSDOH contract #C023046).

    See the full article here .

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    Rockefeller U Campus

    The Rockefeller University is a world-renowned center for research and graduate education in the biomedical sciences, chemistry, bioinformatics and physics. The university’s 76 laboratories conduct both clinical and basic research and study a diverse range of biological and biomedical problems with the mission of improving the understanding of life for the benefit of humanity.

    Founded in 1901 by John D. Rockefeller, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research was the country’s first institution devoted exclusively to biomedical research. The Rockefeller University Hospital was founded in 1910 as the first hospital devoted exclusively to clinical research. In the 1950s, the institute expanded its mission to include graduate education and began training new generations of scientists to become research leaders around the world. In 1965, it was renamed The Rockefeller University.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:33 am on June 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alzheimer’s disease, , Rowan researchers develop blood test that detects early Alzheimer’s disease, Rowan U   

    From Rowan: ” Rowan researchers develop blood test that detects early Alzheimer’s disease” 

    Rowan U bloc

    Rowan University

    June 8, 2016
    No writer credit found

    1
    Zholobov Vadim/Shutterstock.com

    A research team, led by Dr. Robert Nagele from Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine and Durin Technologies, Inc., has announced the development of a blood test that leverages the body’s immune response system to detect an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease – referred to as the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) stage – with unparalleled accuracy. In a “proof of concept” study involving 236 subjects, the test demonstrated an overall accuracy, sensitivity and specificity rate of 100 percent in identifying subjects whose MCI was actually caused by an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

    “About 60 percent of all MCI patients have MCI caused by an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. The remaining 40 percent of cases are caused by other factors, including vascular issues, drug side-effects and depression. To provide proper care, physicians need to know which cases of MCI are due to early Alzheimer’s and which are not,” said Cassandra DeMarshall, the study’s lead author, and a PhD candidate at the Rowan University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. “Our results show that it is possible to use a small number of blood-borne autoantibodies to accurately diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s. These findings could eventually lead to the development of a simple, inexpensive and relatively noninvasive way to diagnose this devastating disease in its earliest stages.”

    “It is now generally believed that Alzheimer’s-related changes begin in the brain at least a decade before the emergence of telltale symptoms,” Nagele explained. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first blood test using autoantibody biomarkers that can accurately detect Alzheimer’s at an early point in the course of the disease when treatments are more likely to be beneficial – that is, before too much brain devastation has occurred.” Nagele is the study’s corresponding author and the director of the Biomarker Discovery Center at Rowan’s New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging. He is also the co-founder and chief scientific officer of Durin Technologies, Inc.

    The researchers presented their results in an article published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring that also reported the test’s ability to accurately “stage the disease,” meaning it can distinguish early-stage Alzheimer’s at MCI from later, more advanced stages. The test was also disease-specific. It readily distinguished early Alzheimer’s at the MCI stage from other diseases including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and early stage breast cancer.

    For the study, the Rowan University researchers analyzed blood samples from 236 subjects, including 50 MCI subjects with low levels of amyloid-beta 42 peptide in their cerebrospinal fluid. The latter is a reliable indicator of ongoing Alzheimer’s pathology in the brain and predicts a likely rapid progression to Alzheimer’s.

    Employing human protein microarrays, each containing 9,486 unique human proteins that are used as bait to attract blood-borne autoantibodies, the researchers identified the top 50 autoantibody biomarkers capable of detecting ongoing early-stage Alzheimer’s pathology in patients with MCI. In multiple tests, the 50 biomarkers were 100 percent accurate in distinguishing patients with MCI due to Alzheimer’s from healthy age- and gender-matched controls. Further testing of the selected MCI biomarker panel demonstrated similar high overall accuracy rates in differentiating patients with early Alzheimer’s at the MCI stage from those with more advance, mild-moderate Alzheimer’s (98.7 percent), early-stage Parkinson’s disease (98.0 percent), multiple sclerosis (100 percent) and breast cancer (100 percent).

    In their report, the researchers acknowledge that the utility of their MCI biomarker panel as a blood test for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease will hinge on a successful larger replication study using an independent patient cohort. However, they also point out that, because this blood-based diagnostic strategy is dependent on the presence of Alzheimer’s pathology which can be underway many years before symptoms emerge, this approach could open the door to even earlier pre-symptomatic detection of Alzheimer’s disease.

    According to the authors, early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and the ability to stage the disease through a simple blood test would offer many potential benefits. Patients could possibly delay disease progression through lifestyle adjustments, begin treatment sooner and plan future medical care. Clinicians would have a way to measure the effectiveness of therapeutic intervention and clinical trials could enroll patients who were truly at the earliest stage of their disease.

    This research was supported, in part, by the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The researchers reported that neither organization had a role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the article.

    See the full article here .

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    Rowan U campus

    Rowan has attracted the attention of national organizations that evaluate colleges and universities. U.S. News & World Report ranks Rowan University 19th of Northern Regional Universities and third among the public institutions in the category. The College of Engineering is ranked 32nd nationally among master’s level programs and the Chemical Engineering program is ranked third.

    The Princeton Review included Rowan in its latest edition “The Best Northeastern Colleges” and included the Rohrer College of Business in its edition of the “Best 295 Business Schools” from among more than 1,800 business schools.

    The University has received 13 awards for green initiatives since 2007. Most recently, the U.S. EPA named the University a “Top Green Power Purchaser” in its athletic conference and The Princeton Review listed it in its “Guide to 322 Green Colleges.”

    Rowan University has evolved from its humble beginning in 1923 as a normal school, with a mission to train teachers for South Jersey classrooms, to a comprehensive public research university with a strong regional reputation.

    In the early 1900s, many New Jersey teachers lacked proper training because of a shortage of schools in the state that provided such an education. To address the problem in South Jersey, the state decided to build a two-year training school for teachers, known then as a normal school.

    The town of Glassboro was an early favorite because of its excellent rail system, harmonious blend of industry and agriculture, natural beauty and location in the heart of South Jersey. Several towns in the region competed to be the site of the new normal school because of the economic benefit and prestige such an institution would bring.

    In 1917, to sway the decision in their favor, 107 residents of Glassboro raised more than $7,000 to purchase 25 acres, which they offered to the state for free if the borough were selected as the site. The tract of land included the Whitney mansion (now known as Hollybush) and carriage house. Before the purchase, the entire property belonged to the Whitney family, prominent owners of the Whitney Glass Works during the 1800s. This show of support, along with the site’s natural beauty, convinced the selection committee that Glassboro was the perfect location.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:04 am on May 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AD-gut, Alzheimer’s disease, , École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne   

    From EPFL: “A new lead in the quest to understand Alzheimer’s” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

    19.05.16
    Sarah Perrin

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    © Thinkstock

    2
    No image credit

    A consortium of European researchers is pursuing a new and unexpected lead in Alzheimer’s research. They are examining the intestinal microbiome and its effect on neurodegeneration. EPFL is coordinating the consortium, which is part of the pan-European Horizon 2020 initiative.

    Why are some people predisposed to Alzheimer’s? A consortium of researchers has recently identified some unexpected and promising leads in the quest to understand the relationship between our intestinal bacteria and Alzheimer’s. They are analyzing the body’s microbiome – the microorganisms in our digestive tract – and how it is regulated. Determining the composition and functioning of the microbiome will help them identify risk factors, develop a new diagnostic tool and maybe even come up with a way to delay the onset of this neurodegenerative disorder.

    The consortium is looking at what happens when probiotics are used to regulate the microbiome and how they may affect the progression of the disease. This approach will also be applied to developing a new diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s.

    The project, called AD-gut, will be coordinated by EPFL. The team led by EPFL Professors Aleksandra Radenovic, Dimitri Van de Ville and Théo Lasser will also work on developing various imaging techniques in order to decipher the microbiome along with theranostic methods aimed at revealing the beneficial effects of probiotics. The following European researchers are bringing their team’s skills to the project: Johan Hofkens (University of Leuven, Belgium), Tanja Weil (Max Planck Institute, Germany), Kathy McCoy (University of Bern, Switzerland), Frida Fåk (Lund University, Sweden) and Jeroen Raes (VIB, Belgium).

    See the full article here .

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    EPFL campus

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university with students, professors and staff from over 120 nations. A dynamic environment, open to Switzerland and the world, EPFL is centered on its three missions: teaching, research and technology transfer. EPFL works together with an extensive network of partners including other universities and institutes of technology, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and colleges, industry and economy, political circles and the general public, to bring about real impact for society.

     
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