Quieting The Immune Response In The Brain
The team next performed a series of experiments using cancer cells that could and couldnt produce amyloid beta. The results, including from tests in mice, seemed to confirm that the melanoma cells could spread to other organs without the protein but that it was needed for the cells to establish tumors in the brain.
In another set of mouse experiments that tracked the timeline of melanoma metastasis to the brain, the team found that individual melanoma cells lacking amyloid beta could spread to the brain and survive there for about a week. But they didnt grow into larger metastatic tumors.
To reach and colonize the brain, cancer cells need to overcome several hostile environments, explained Dr. Gril. The cells start their journey by leaving the primary tumor. They then need to survive in the blood stream, cross a structure known as the bloodbrain barrier, and then successfully incorporate themselves among other brain cells to grow as a secondary tumor.
In mouse brains and in cultured cells taken from rat brains, Dr. Hernando-Monge and her team found that the amyloid beta produced by melanoma cells interacts directly with a type of brain cell called an astrocyte.
That interaction did several things, they found, including preventing immune cells in the brain called microglia from recognizing and killing the cancer cells.
We May Finally Know What Causes Alzheimers And How To Stop It
Alzheimers disease has destroyed neurons in the right-hand brain above
Jessica Wilson/Science Photo Library
AFTER decades of disappointment, we may have a new lead on fighting Alzheimers disease. Compelling evidence that the condition is caused by a bacterium involved in gum disease could prove a game-changer in tackling one of medicines biggest mysteries, and lead to effective treatments or even a vaccine.
As populations have aged, dementia has skyrocketed to become the fifth biggest cause of death worldwide. Alzheimers constitutes some 70 per cent of these cases , yet we dont know what causes it. The condition, which results in progressive loss of memory and cognitive function, usually over a decade or so, is devastating both to those who have it and to their loved ones.
The condition often involves the accumulation of two types of proteins called amyloid and tau in the brain. As these are among the earliest physical signs of the disease, the leading hypothesis since 1984 has been that the condition is caused by the defective control of these proteins, especially amyloid, which accumulates to form large, sticky plaques in the brain.
The bulk of research into understanding and treating Alzheimers has centred on this amyloid hypothesis. Huge sums of money have been invested in experiments involving mice genetically modified to produce amyloid, and in developing drugs that block or destroy amyloid proteins, or sometimes degraded tangles of tau.
What To Do If You Suspect Alzheimers Disease
Getting checked by your healthcare provider can help determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are related to Alzheimers disease, or a more treatable conditions such as a vitamin deficiency or a side effect from medication. Early and accurate diagnosis also provides opportunities for you and your family to consider financial planning, develop advance directives, enroll in clinical trials, and anticipate care needs.
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What Will Happen Now
Researchers will continue to investigate if there is any risk that amyloid proteins could be transferred between people. Even if the risk is small, it is important to check we are doing all we can to avoid harm. We would expect this new research to tell us whether there are any other steps that we might need to take to be sure.
Dementia and Alzheimers disease are not contagious. They are caused by diseases of the brain, but we cant catch them from other people. We do know though that there are things we can all do to reduce our risk of developing dementia, like eating a healthy balanced diet, staying active and stopping smoking.
If you are worried about your memory or changes to your thinking skills contact your GP.
How to reduce your risk of dementia
Although getting older is the biggest risk factor for dementia, evidence shows there are things you can do to help reduce your own risk. These include keeping active, eating healthily and exercising your mind.
What Can Be Done To Lower Risk Of Alzheimers
We cant choose our parents, and therefore we cant affect inherited genetic risk factors. The most important lesson to draw from the answer to Barbaras question is that caregivers can probably protect and improve their health by maintaining as healthy a lifestyle as possible. Caregivers need to make sure their own medical issues are addressed. Peer support and management of anxiety or depression will help a caregiver shoulder the difficult burden of assisting a relative with dementia. In addition, its important to make time for relaxation, physical activity, and social interaction outside the caregiving role. Adequate sleep and a nutritious diet, too, are necessary for health maintenance. A geriatric care manager, social worker, behavioral health consultant, or primary care clinician may be able to suggest additional support to maintain a caregivers health and reduce their own risk of developing AD.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia
Many people associate dementia with memory loss. This is because memory problems are often one of the early symptoms of a dementia disorder, but they are not the only one. The symptoms of dementia can vary, depending on the type of dementia and what areas of the brain are affected. Symptoms may include:
- Memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion
- Changes in the ability to speak, understand, and express thoughts and/or words and to write and read
- Wandering and getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
- Trouble handling money and paying bills
- Repeating questions
- Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
- Loss of interest in normal daily activities or events
- Hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia
What Is The Burden Of Alzheimers Disease In The United States
- Alzheimers disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.2
- The 6th leading cause of death among US adults.
- The 5th leading cause of death among adults aged 65 years or older.3
In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimers disease.1 This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
In 2010, the costs of treating Alzheimers disease were projected to fall between $159 and $215 billion.4 By 2040, these costs are projected to jump to between $379 and more than $500 billion annually.4
Death rates for Alzheimers disease are increasing, unlike heart disease and cancer death rates that are on the decline.5 Dementia, including Alzheimers disease, has been shown to be under-reported in death certificates and therefore the proportion of older people who die from Alzheimers may be considerably higher.6
Icipating In Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical Trials
Everybody those with Alzheimers disease or MCI as well as healthy volunteers with or without a family history of Alzheimers may be able to take part in clinical trials and studies. Participants in Alzheimers clinical research help scientists learn how the brain changes in healthy aging and in Alzheimers. Currently, at least 270,000 volunteers are needed to participate in more than 250 active clinical trials and studies that are testing ways to understand, diagnose, treat, and prevent Alzheimers disease.
Volunteering for a clinical trial is one way to help in the fight against Alzheimers. Studies need participants of different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that results are meaningful for many people. To learn more about clinical trials, watch this video from NIH’s National Library of Medicine.
NIA leads the federal governments research efforts on Alzheimers. NIA-supported Alzheimers Disease Research Centers throughout the U.S. conduct a wide range of research, including studies of the causes, diagnosis, and management of the disease. NIA also sponsors the Alzheimers Clinical Trials Consortium, which is designed to accelerate and expand studies and therapies in Alzheimers and related dementias.
To learn more about Alzheimers clinical trials and studies:
- Talk to your health care provider about local studies that may be right for you.
Watch videos of participants in Alzheimers disease clinical trials talking about their experiences.
Key Biological Processes In The Brain
Most neurons have three basic parts: a cell body, multiple dendrites, and an axon.
- The cell body contains the nucleus, which houses the genetic blueprint that directs and regulates the cells activities.
- Dendrites are branch-like structures that extend from the cell body and collect information from other neurons.
- The axon is a cable-like structure at the end of the cell body opposite the dendrites and transmits messages to other neurons.
The function and survival of neurons depend on several key biological processes:
Neurons are a major player in the central nervous system, but other cell types are also key to healthy brain function. In fact, glial cells are by far the most numerous cells in the brain, outnumbering neurons by about 10 to 1. These cells, which come in various formssuch as microglia, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytessurround and support the function and healthy of neurons. For example, microglia protect neurons from physical and chemical damage and are responsible for clearing foreign substances and cellular debris from the brain. To carry out these functions, glial cells often collaborate with blood vessels in the brain. Together, glial and blood vessel cells regulate the delicate balance within the brain to ensure that it functions at its best.
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If Familial Alzheimers Disease Is Suspected
Genetic testing can identify specific changes in a persons genes. This test can tell if a person has FAD and if a child has inherited the changed gene from a parent and will develop the disease in the future. It cannot determine when the symptoms will begin. It is essential to ensure that suspected cases in the family have, or have had, Alzheimers disease and not some other form of dementia. This can only be done through a medical examination, or a careful analysis of past medical records if the person is no longer alive.
Do Genes Cause Diseases
Genetic mutations can cause diseases. If a person inherits a genetic mutation that causes a certain disease, then he or she will usually get the disease. Sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and some cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease are examples of inherited genetic disorders.
Other changes or differences in genes, called genetic variants, may increase or decrease a person’s risk of developing a particular disease. When a genetic variant increases disease risk but does not directly cause a disease, it is called a genetic risk factor.
Identifying genetic variants may help researchers find the most effective ways to treat or prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s in an individual. This approach, called precision medicine, takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.
The expression of geneswhen they are switched on or offcan be affected, positively and negatively, by environmental and lifestyle factors, such as exercise, diet, chemicals, or smoking. The field of epigenetics is studying how such factors can alter a cell’s DNA in ways that affect gene activity.
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What Happens To The Brain In Alzheimer’s Disease
The healthy human brain contains tens of billions of neuronsspecialized cells that process and transmit information via electrical and chemical signals. They send messages between different parts of the brain, and from the brain to the muscles and organs of the body. Alzheimers disease disrupts this communication among neurons, resulting in loss of function and cell death.
Support For Family And Friends
Currently, many people living with Alzheimers disease are cared for at home by family members. Caregiving can have positive aspects for the caregiver as well as the person being cared for. It may bring personal fulfillment to the caregiver, such as satisfaction from helping a family member or friend, and lead to the development of new skills and improved family relationships.
Although most people willingly provide care to their loved ones and friends, caring for a person with Alzheimers disease at home can be a difficult task and may become overwhelming at times. Each day brings new challenges as the caregiver copes with changing levels of ability and new patterns of behavior. As the disease gets worse, people living with Alzheimers disease often need more intensive care.
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Why Early Detection Can Be Difficult
Alzheimers disease usually is not diagnosed in the early stages, even in people who visit their primary care doctors with memory complaints.
- People and their families generally underreport the symptoms.
- They may confuse them with normal signs of aging.
- The symptoms may emerge so gradually that the person affected doesnt recognize them.
- The person may be aware of some symptoms but go to great lengths to conceal them.
Recognizing symptoms early is crucial because medication to control symptoms is most effective in the early stages of the disease and early diagnosis allows the individual and his or her family members to plan for the future. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the following symptoms, contact a physician.
What Is Alzheimers Disease
- Alzheimers disease is the most common type of dementia.
- It is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment.
- Alzheimers disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.
- It can seriously affect a persons ability to carry out daily activities.
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Can You Catch Ad From A Non
Research has shown a significantly greater risk for cognitive decline in the caregiving spouses of people with AD than for non-caregivers. These tested spouses scored lower on measures of attention, processing speed, and memory than spouses of people without dementia. Researcher Peter Vitaliano has called this an ironic tragedy and suggested some of the reasons caregivers may be at greater risk for cognitive decline than non-caregivers.
First, caregiving is an inherently stressful activity. This stress is associated with damaging metabolic changes. Obesity, insulin resistance, high cortisol levels and systemic inflammation are consequences of high stress. They are also involved in the development of AD.
Second, caregivers too often slip into an unhealthy lifestyle. Caregiving can promote sleep deprivation, exhaustion, reduced physical activity, reliance on a convenient rather than nutritious diet, increased social isolation, disruption of outside relationships and activities, and constant worry.
Finally, in addition to whatever direct harmful effects these lifestyle factors have on cognitive functioning, they also promote anxiety and depression. An anxious or depressed person often does poorly on cognitive testing, sometimes poorly enough to resemble dementia even if their cognitive functioning is better than it seems on the test.
The Basics Of Alzheimers Disease
Scientists are conducting studies to learn more about plaques, tangles, and other biological features of Alzheimers disease. Advances in brain imaging techniques allow researchers to see the development and spread of abnormal amyloid and tau proteins in the living brain, as well as changes in brain structure and function. Scientists are also exploring the very earliest steps in the disease process by studying changes in the brain and body fluids that can be detected years before Alzheimers symptoms appear. Findings from these studies will help in understanding the causes of Alzheimers and make diagnosis easier.
One of the great mysteries of Alzheimers disease is why it largely affects older adults. Research on normal brain aging is exploring this question. For example, scientists are learning how age-related changes in the brain may harm neurons and affect other types of brain cells to contribute to Alzheimers damage. These age-related changes include atrophy of certain parts of the brain, inflammation, blood vessel damage, production of unstable molecules called free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction .
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Genes Which May Influence Alzheimers Disease
Having a close relative with the Alzheimers disease is not evidence of a genetic link. People who are influenced by risk factor genes are only at a slightly increased risk in developing the disease than the average population.
The most important gene discovered to date is the Apolipoprotein E gene, which is found in chromosome 19. This gene occurs in three forms in humans: types 2, 3 and 4. Every person in the world carries two Apolipoprotein genes: they can be the same type , or a mixture of two types . What has been found is that people with at least one type 4 and especially those with two, such as 4,4, are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimers disease earlier in life than those with the other types of Apolipoprotein E. Nevertheless half of the people aged 85 who have 2 copies of apolipoprotein E 4 do not have symptoms of Alzheimers disease at that age.
People with type 2, especially 2,2, appear to be protected against developing Alzheimers disease, until much later in life. Researchers do not understand why this is so, and there is much research underway to find out why.
The type of Apolipoprotein does not mean definitely that Alzheimers disease will or will not occur. Indeed it is known that some people can reach 90 with type 4 and not develop dementia, whereas others with type 2 can develop dementia much earlier in life. What this means is that the type of Apolipoprotein a person has, is not enough on its own to cause Alzheimers disease.