Today’s Top Alzheimer’s News
A February 17, 2017 NPR article reported on the debate over whether presidents should be tested for dementia. As presidents live longer, there needs to be greater transparency when it comes to presidential health, says Arthur Caplan, Bioethicist, Langone Medical Center, New York University. "I think we're about 50 years overdue for having some sort of annual physical for the president and vice president, the results of which should be reported publicly," he says. "Part of this should be psychiatric and cognitive testing." Dr. Jacob Appel, Psychiatrist, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, questions how to objectively determine what level of impairment renders a candidate unfit for office. "As a colleague of mine says, 'One candidate with half a brain may be better than the other candidate with a whole brain.' I fear that baseline cognitive screening is a rather facile solution."
A February 16, 2017 Newsweek article reported that the key to stopping Alzheimer’s is early intervention, before symptoms are evident and brain damage is too extensive. “That’s how you stop the disease,” said Rudy Tanzi, Director, Genetics and Aging Research Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital. “You don’t wait.” This aggressive attempt to prevent Alzheimer’s, rather than treating it, is a new development and a radical departure for researchers and the pharmaceutical industry. Traditionally, drug companies have tested therapies on patients already showing signs of dementia, and not a single medicine has been shown to slow the progression of AD. The prevention strategy is being tested in five big clinical trials that will cost $500 million to $1 billion, and success may save our health care system. Dementia is the most expensive disease to care for, and the number of patients with the condition is expected to explode in the coming years.
RESEARCH, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
A February 17, 2017 BBC News article reported that scientists are appealing for more people to donate their brains for research so that they may develop new treatments for mental and neurological disorders. There is a shortage of brains from people with disorders like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In recent years, researchers have made links between the shape of the brain and mental and neurological disorders. Samples are requested by scientists to find new treatments for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and a whole host of psychiatric disorders, however there are not enough specimens for the research community, and the lack of brain tissue is holding back development of new treatments.
A February 8, 2017 USC (University of Southern California) article reported about the approaching public health crisis of Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans. Evidence suggests African Americans are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s dementia than any other group in the United States and recruiting for clinical trials remains a struggle. But USC researchers hope a new texting campaign will change that. “African Americans still have a profound mistrust of medical research, so most of what we know about diseases like Alzheimer’s is based on studies of whites. Less than 5% of participants in clinical trials are African Americans,” said Karen Lincoln, Associate Professor, USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Lincoln has secured a pilot grant to test the effectiveness of different health education approaches on Alzheimer’s knowledge and research attitudes, and will send daily text messages about brain health and clinical research to African Americans, in the first study of its kind to use texting to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and clinical trials.