A free teleconference series offered by UsAgainstAlzheimer's Network covering a wide range of topics with leaders in the Alzheimer's community.
Debra Lappin was the guest host for our March Alzheimer’s Talks. She spoke with Dr. Gregory Jicha, Professor of Neurology and the holder of the Robert T. and Nyles Y. McCowan Endowed Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
Dr. Jicha talked about the impact of genetics on Alzheimer’s risk, how genetic research is affecting the development of medicines, and why individuals with risk genes are important for clinical trials.
A few key highlights:
Risk genes have been identified
Researchers have identified at least eighteen genes that put you at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s. Dr. Jicha stressed that having a risk factor gene does not mean you will definitely come down with Alzheimer’s; also, if you don’t have one of those genes, you could still develop Alzheimer’s so its best to do everything we can for our brain health.
These discoveries help researchers better understand how Alzheimer’s takes hold in the brain, and gives them a “road map” of how medicines might slow, stop, prevent, or perhaps someday even reverse Alzheimer changes in the brain.
Genetics can help personalize medicine
Genes can also help predict a patient’s response to medicines. An individual’s genes can make some medicines more effective or others more risky, so genetic information could help doctors prescribe the best medicines for each individual.
Genetic testing will move the research forward
Though genetic testing is not available commercially for all of the risk factor genes, there are tests available for the genes that may put you at the highest risk for Alzheimer’s. People interested in genetic testing should consult their doctors or genetic counselors.
Clinical trial participation is crucial
Clinical trials could be helped by having genetic information from individuals who carry risk factor genes, especially if they are identified before they develop symptoms of memory impairment.
Getting involved in research is something we can all do to speed the search for a treatment. If you are interested in clinical trials, some places for you to check out include:
Thank you to Dr. Jicha for talking about the links between Alzheimer’s and genetics. If you missed the talk – or if you’d like to hear it again – you can listen to an audio playback or read the transcript of our conversation.
For our February Alzheimer’s Talks, guest host Meryl Comer talked with Dr. Nathan Rose, Assistant Professor of Cognition Brain and Behavior in the Department of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Rose’s research focuses on basic memory processes and how these processes break down in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. He shared with us two exciting areas of his memory research that have earned his team a lot of media attention recently.
A few key highlights:
Locating missing memory
Dr. Rose and his team are helping us better understand how the brain processes short-term memory through neuroimaging techniques. They found that some working memories, once thought to be forgotten, were actually still present though neuroimaging techniques had been unable to see activity for these types of memory. When Dr. Rose used TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, to ping or trigger brain areas associated with these silent memories, neural activity increased and the lost working memories were briefly reactivated. This research provides a shift in understanding of working memory and short-term retention. Dr. Rose is currently studying healthy people to better understand how the brain works, and future research will look at how those mechanisms break down in aging and conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Remembering to remember
Prospective memory is remembering to remember to do something at the appropriate time in the future (ex. taking medicine at bedtime). This ability is often lost for those with Alzheimer’s disease and affects the ability to live independently.
Dr. Rose and his team have developed a game called Virtual Week to help people work on strategies to strengthen prospective memory. His research has shown that people not only improved at the game, but also improved at performing instrumental activities of daily living and remembering to remember outside the lab. The game has been so popular that he is developing an app to bring it to a wider audience.
Thank you to Dr. Rose for talking about his research on memory. If you missed the talk – or if you’d like to hear it again – you can listen to an audio playback. We look forward to having you join the next Alzheimer's Talks on March 17th with Dr. Gregory Jicha from the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky Alzheimer's Disease Center.
For the first Alzheimer’s Talks of 2017, we were joined by Dr. Scott Turner of Georgetown University to discuss a fascinating new clinical trial that repurposes an existing drug.
Dr. Turner is one of the nation’s foremost clinical researchers in Alzheimer’s and is Professor of Neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center, medical co-director of Georgetown Translational Neurotherapeutics Program and Director of the Memory Disorders Program.
Here are a few key highlights from the call:
Drug repurposing could help us find a treatment more quickly
If a drug is already available for prescription, we know a lot about its safety and tolerability and therefore can accelerate the process to try it for another disease.
Could a cancer drug possibly be a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease?
This exciting clinical trial repurposes a cancer drug, nilotinib, as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, and a parallel study repurposes the same drug for Parkinson’s disease. The drug promotes autophagy – convincing a cell to promote self-digestion of toxic protein aggregates in nerve cells in the brain. In animal studies and a small pilot study with 11 Parkinson’s patients, the drug was safe and looked promising but this could be due to the placebo effect, which is why this study is needed.
Phase two trial for Alzheimer’s disease now recruiting at Georgetown University
The investigators are looking for a volunteer to join the study every week between now and November. The study being conducted at Georgetown will require approximately 15 visits during a 12 month period. If you have a diagnosis of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and are interested in learning more, information can be found at: memory.georgetown.edu.
Philanthropy is important for research
This study is being funded by a grant from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) along with private philanthropists.
UsAgainstAlzheimer’s has a goal to find a treatment faster by reducing the time and cost of clinical trials. We hope that by featuring some clinical trials that are recruiting participants we share with you the most up to date information on the science from leading Alzheimer’s researchers and also hope that you might be interested in participating, something that we can all do to help find a cure.
If you missed the talk, or would like to hear it again, you can listen to the recording or read the transcript.
For our final Alzheimer’s Talks call for 2016, we were honored to have Dr. Laura Baker join us to discuss her research on the impact of aerobic exercise on Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss, and to provide details of a new study she is conducting called the EXERT trial.
Dr. Baker is Associate Professor of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, and Associate Director of the new Wake Forest Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Dr. Baker is a nationally recognized leader on the topic of aerobic exercise as a treatment for memory decline associated with pre-clinical and early stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Here are a few key highlights from the call:
"Sedentary" is the new smoking
Our nation has moved towards a more sedentary lifestyle, for example sitting at desks or in front of the television for hours, and increased reliance on driving to get from one place to another. We’re seeing negative health impacts that are similar to those associated with smoking on the heart, blood vessels, and maybe even the brain.
Exercise may be medicine for the brain
The results of animal studies provide strong support for health-restoring effects of aerobic exercise in the brain. In previous, smaller-scale human studies, Dr. Baker and her team have showed that as little as six months of aerobic exercise improved memory and thinking abilities, volume and resting blood flow in the brain. The next step in this area of research will be to determine whether aerobic exercise can slow progression of memory loss and prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Finding the right prescription
Previous research has led Dr. Baker to believe that regular exercise may have an anti-Alzheimer’s effect. She is working with Dr. Carl Cotman of the University of California-Irvine, and the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study of the University of California-San Diego to conduct a large clinical trial to test the effects of 2 different doses of exercise on memory and thinking and other measures of brain health.
The EXERT trial
The EXERT trial is currently enrolling participants in thirteen cities across the country. Participants must be sedentary, between the age of 65 and 89, and have a mild memory impairment. The study is a randomized, controlled, clinical trial. Therefore, some participants will be assigned to the stretching-balance-range of motion group and others will be assigned high dose aerobic exercise group for eighteen months. Both groups will be supervised by YMCA personal trainers.
Thank you to Dr. Laura Baker for discussing her research. If you missed the talk, or would like to hear it again, you can listen to the recording. Please consider signing up if you are eligible – the sooner the study is enrolled, the sooner we will know the impact of aerobic exercise on brain health and the prevention of Alzheimer's disease dementia.
For this Alzheimer’s Talks, we were honored to have Dr. Rudy Tanzi share with us his fascinating new work on a microbial hypothesis of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Tanzi is the Vice Chair of Neurology and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. He was chosen by the Geoffrey Beene Foundation as a ‘Rock Star of Science’ and is a Founding Member of our ResearchersAgainstAlzheimer’s network.
What is this microbial hypothesis?
It postulates that microbial pathogens can rapidly induce amyloid plaques deposition as a defense mechanism of the brain’s innate immune system. Inflammation is triggered by amyloid accumulating in the brain and also a reaction of the brain’s innate immune system to protect itself from pathogens.
Could amyloid be accumulating in the brain as a defense response?
As we get older our blood-brain barrier starts to break down, our adaptive immunity starts to become a little less strong, and microbial pathogens can build up. His research has shown that brains with amyloid in them from Alzheimer’s patients had more antimicrobial activity than brains without amyloid and that beta amyloid is antimicrobial and does help fight infection.
Next steps and possible treatment
Dr. Tanzi’s next work, the Brain Microbiome Project, funded by Cure Alzheimer’s Fund and Open Philanthropy, is to test in humans the hypothesis that the reason we have amyloid build-up is that over decades small amounts of low-grade infections and microbes are sneaking into the brain and triggering amyloid. By isolating the plaques and sequencing the RNA they can determine whether there are common pathogens that drive the amyloid build-up, and find a treatment to target those pathogens.
Thanks to Dr. Rudy Tanzi for sharing this fascinating theory and research. Listen to the recording or read the transcript for the full conversation, including whether he thinks we will have a disease-modifying treatment in the next 5 years and how vitamins and diet can help.
Don’t miss the next Alzheimer’s Talks on the EXERT study of exercise. Sign up now!