News and Research Feed

Depression: How Big of a Risk Factor for Alzheimer’s Is It?

Brain9It seems that there’s always something new popping up in a headline stating that this condition or that disease increases our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. While the constant barrage of negative information can be frustrating, it’s simply a byproduct of the intense research being done to discover the cause or causes of Alzheimer’s. That’s all good. For people with depression, however, seeing their illness on lists for traits that make them more likely to develop AD is worrisome. How seriously should people with depression take this information about which they can do little?

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Global Alzheimer’s Study Now Enrolling


Surprising Changes that May Indicate Dementia

BrainWhen the average person thinks of dementia, generally Alzheimer’s disease comes to mind, and when people think of Alzheimer’s they think of memory loss. Both of these conclusions are understandable since Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and memory issues are often the first symptom of that disease. Surprising then, to many people, is the fact that there may be more subtle indicators of potential Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia than memory lapses. If we feel that dementia may be in our future or that of our loved one, what other indications of cognitive change should we watch for?

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Global Alzheimer’s Study Now Enrolling


What’s Developing in Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment

 By Lawrence Friedhoff, MD, PhD


Lawrence_FriedhoffMy work in Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics began about 20 years ago. After completing my medical training, I was interested to explore another side of medicine—how new drugs are developed.

Attitudes toward dementia have changed drastically over the past two decades. Back then, the term Alzheimer’s disease wasn’t widely used, nor was Alzheimer's disease seen as a credible illness. Instead, people referred to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as "senile dementia,” an inevitable consequence of aging that was considered untreatable.

In the early 90’s, I began working for a mid-size pharmaceutical company, and was placed in charge of finding promising new drugs to bring to market. In looking through many drug candidates and speaking with the scientists who had invented them, I came across a molecule, “E2020,” that I suspected would be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. I was able to obtain some development budget for E2020, and worked with a small team to get the molecule worldwide drug approval. About 5 years later, that drug became available to patients as Aricept (donepezil), which was then, and is still, the most widely used Alzheimer’s disease treatment.

Scientific and public attitudes about Alzheimer's disease changed with the approval of Aricept and subsequent medications: doctors became more educated about the disease and its diagnosis, and patients and their caregivers became more optimistic about the development of even better treatments.

The medical and scientific communities want to answer that call. Recently, there has been a push to explore medicines targeting a particular protein, beta amyloid, which tends to accumulate in the brain as we age, and is associated with dementia. The hope that these beta amyloid-targeted products could cure Alzheimer's disease meant an enormous amount of time and money was put into their development. Unfortunately, thus far, these investigational drugs have not yet shown any convincing benefit to patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Although scientists are still pursuing new beta amyloid treatments, I believe the scientific community is turning its attention back to neurotransmitter-targeted drugs, which, like Aricept, act on essential chemicals within the brain in order to augment the brain’s normal functions. I’m currently leading the development of one such drug, called RVT-101, which has strong evidence of benefit to mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s patients’ cognition and ability to perform daily living activities.

RVT-101 appears to be very well tolerated and is an oral, once-daily pill, so it’s easy for patients to take. Based on the results obtained to date, we believe RVT-101 has a good chance of becoming a widely-used drug for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. We are currently enrolling patients in a Phase III clinical trial of RVT-101, and we think it will be the final trial needed in order to get FDA approval and make the drug available to all patients. Until then, all patients who enroll in and complete our large clinical trial will have the opportunity to receive RVT-101 for up to one full year.

It's important to understand that clinical trials are a fundamental part of getting new treatments to patients, and are especially important for Alzheimer's disease drugs. Tests of Alzheimer's disease treatments in animals have not been predictive of the results in human patients except in a few rare cases. Furthermore, clinical trials can provide benefit to both the patient and future generations: they provide patients an opportunity to get a new drug earlier than would otherwise be possible, and participants may contribute to the advancement of drugs that help other patients. As Alzheimer’s disease occurs more frequently in women than in men, women’s participation in clinical research is particularly important.

However, patients should remember that there is no guarantee that the investigational drug in a clinical trial will ultimately prove to be beneficial— and all drugs have side effects. If clinical trials interest you or a loved one, make sure to discuss participation with your doctor and the staff running the clinical trial in order to determine which clinical trial, if any, is right.

BIO:

Dr. Friedhoff's career in pharmaceutical R&D has spanned more than three decades. During this time he has led and managed teams that developed and obtained approval for six new drugs, including Aricept® (donepezil), the most widely used drug for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Friedhoff is the Chief Development Officer at Axovant Sciences, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on dementia solutions. He is the author of "New Drugs: An Insider's Guide to the FDA Approval Process for Scientists, Investors, and Patients" and has authored and co-authored numerous articles for peer-reviewed publications. He holds an MD from New York University, a PhD in Chemistry from Columbia University, and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.

The MINDSET Study for Mild-to-Moderate Alzheimer’s Is Open for Enrollment! 

As a participant in the MINDSET study, Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers can have access to study-related medical care from specialized teams in this field.  Participants can continue to see their regular doctor(s) while participating in this study, and medical insurance is not required to participate. 

Interested patients and caregivers are invited to visit www.AlzheimersGlobalStudy.com to see if they may pre-qualify.


3 Triggers for Alcohol Abuse in Elderly

Caregiver6Alcohol abuse can occur at any age, but in the past most doctors looked for the signs in younger people. There’s also a bias in society at large, including some doctors, that people who abuse alcohol will be of a certain type. It can be hard for a doctor to look at a sweet, grandmotherly woman and think that perhaps the “occasional” glass of wine she admits to drinking may actually be a good portion of a bottle on nightly basis. 

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Global Alzheimer’s Study Now Enrolling

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Poor Dental Hygiene Linked to Brain Tissue Degeneration

MossytreeThe strongest evidence to date that poor dental hygiene is linked to brain degeneration has emerged from a recent study at the University of Florida Dental College. While cardiologists have long known that the bacteria that causes gingivitis (gum disease) may enter the blood stream adding to  heart issues, there had been fewer studies to link Alzheimer’s or other dementia to oral health. 

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“I hold onto your book as a life preserver and am reading it slowly on purpose...I don't want it to end.”  Craig William Dayton, Film Composer


People with Down Syndrome Heroes for Alzheimer’s Research

ResearcherDown syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21. The genes on this chromosome are the same genes that control the production of the substance that forms the amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The extra copy of the chromosome means that people with Down syndrome will develop the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease by the age of 40, though they may not show symptoms until they are older.

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Could Life Experience Offset Cognitive Decline Due to Aging?

Exercise5Could life experience make up for some of the effects of age on the brain? According to researchers from the School of Business Administration at the University of California, Riverside, it can and does. The research group measured a person's decision making ability over their entire lifespan. Using two difference types of intelligence - fluid and crystallized – they found that experience and acquired knowledge from a lifetime of decision-making often offset the declining ability to learn new information.

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Does Treating Aging as a Disease Improve Our Future? Watch "The Age of Aging" to Learn What Experts Think

NorthernLights

 By treating aging as a disease are we just prolonging the inevitable or can we change the course of our lives? This question will be discussed at length on "Breakthrough: The Age of Aging" premiering Sunday, November 29, at 9 pm ET on National Geographic Channel.

My opinion? Aging is a process and it’s not all bad. We gain hindsight and wisdom. We gain experience from our successes as well as our mistakes.  The wisest among us gain perspective about what really matters as we each navigate our personal path through life.

For me, the question is more about how we live and how we die than it is whether or not aging should be treated as a disease that needs to be cured. 

If we take care of our body, our mind, and our spirit, we have a better chance of enjoying good health as we age. Will we have annoying issues that accompany aging? Most likely we will. However, many of us can mitigate some of the negative symptoms of aging if we consume a fairly healthy diet, exercise moderately and challenge our brains.

I believe that by maintaining a positive outlook on life, which is often enhanced by making some type of spiritual connection habitual, we can limit stress. Stress has proven to be destructive to our body and our mind, so by limiting stress we stand a better chance of staying reasonably healthy. Maintaining relationships that we enjoy and eliminating those that are toxic to our wellbeing may also improve our chances of living well as we age. 

Rather than thinking of aging as a disease, or just accepting that there’s nothing we can do to improve negative symptoms of aging, I'd rather think of aging as something that we can do with grace. Therefore, in this way, yes I think we can change the course of our lives to some degree.

I believe that by accepting aging as part of the circle of life and respecting the process, we can age graciously. Then, if we're fortunate, when our time comes we can also experience a dignified death. To me, this means knowing when to quit treating any disease - including aging if, indeed aging is a disease - and moving on to whatever exists beyond the physical.

For breakthrough information, as well as opinions from people who’ve intensely studied this issue, tune in to "Breakthrough: The Age of Aging" premiering Sunday, November 29, at 9 pm ET on National Geographic Channel.

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“I hold onto your book as a life preserver and am reading it slowly on purpose...I don't want it to end.”  Craig William Dayton, Film Composer


Dental Care May Be Important Element In Avoiding Alzheimer’s

DentalCareAs people age, even the healthiest among us tend to need more maintenance. While young people can skip sleep and still function well, older people may need more rest to regain their energy. While young people may seem to thrive on junk food and sporadic exercise, older people may find that their bodies are more demanding about receiving their required nutrients and exercise if they are to stay vital. Increasingly, oral health is making news in this area.

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Challenging Hobbies Help Maintain Brain Health

PoolAlthough there’s a long way to go before Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are well understood, studies have shown that keeping the body and brain active throughout life may offer some protection. Happily, it’s not all work. Hobbies can be healthy.

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