Today's Top Alzheimer's Coverage

NPR profiles the important role of that individuals with Down syndrome play in Alzheimer's research, the debate over early Alzheimer's diagnosis, the need for equal treatment of women in medical research, and Sen. Bob Casey introduces a caregiver corps bill (read more).   

Must reads

  • An August 25, 2014 NPR audio segment and article profiled the pioneering role of people with Down syndrome in Alzheimer's research. According to the article, "Alzheimer's researchers are increasingly interested in people like McCowan because "people with Down syndrome represent the world's largest population of individuals predisposed to getting Alzheimer's disease," says Michael Rafii, director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at UCSD…Finding a drug that prevents Alzheimer's in people with Down syndrome could help millions of people who don't have the disorder, Mobley says. "This approach to treating Alzheimer's disease might apply to all of us," he says. "Imagine someday a drug that we all start taking when we're 25 so we never get Alzheimer's disease."That's a long-term goal. But already, people with Down syndrome are making a difference in Alzheimer's research. Early work with Down patients helped confirm the importance of amyloid. More recently, people with the disorder helped test an eye exam that may offer a simple way to screen for Alzheimer's."
  • An August 25, 2014 Scientific American blog post explored the debate over the usefulness of early Alzheimer's diagnosis. According to the post, "Therapy for dementia remains a bleak landscape. And while we have a sense of some risk factors that could be modified (like smoking), there’s nothing solid enough to be an early prevention strategy, either. Nevertheless, people are taking lessons from the cancer awareness-raising playbook to encourage and prime us towards believing we can prevent Alzheimer disease, and accept early – even very early – detection…But not only don’t we know if Alzheimer disease can be slowed down in its early stages, we don’t know yet how to tell who will get it. Even the best estimates are still quite vague. For people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), roughly 20-40% will go on to dementia – but roughly 10-40% will return to normal cognition. Brain scans and blood or cerebrospinal fluid tests for dementia biomarkers aren’t accurate enough early on."
  • An August 24, 2014 Huffington Post article by Phyllis Greenberger underscored the need for women to receive equal treatment in medical research. According to Greenberger, "Who would have thought that in 2014 we would be fighting to ensure that women are included in research on diseases and medical drugs and devices? If you find it outrageous, you are not alone…Or take Alzheimer's disease, which is more prevalent in women than in men with damage to the brain from Alzheimer's more severe for women [5,6]. Science has shown that women's brains are less tolerant of neural deterioration than men so, as a result, it requires less deterioration of a woman's brain to induce Alzheimer's [7]…These are all important differences yet today they are chronically understudied by the medical community. All of us need to insist upon equal consideration in scientific research for both men and women." Phyllis Greenberger, MSW, is the president and CEO of the Society for Women's Health Research.
  • An August 24, 2014 Associated Press article (via The San Francisco Gate) profiled one Alabama family's struggles with dementia. According to the article, "Lemmond, of Hartselle, and her three siblings have been caring for their mother the past four years. They moved Lawrence into Westminster Assisted Living's memory care unit in Decatur in February. Each stage of their mother's dementia has presented different obstacles for the family. One of the most challenging things for Lemmond, 53, was becoming a caregiver. "When you have to question them, you become the parent," Lemmond said. "The roles reverse." In Lawrence's early stages of dementia, she would become frustrated, and so did the family."

Caregiving 

  • An August 19, 2014 Intelligencer Journal editorial highlighted Senator Bob Casey's (D-PA) Caregiver Corps bill. According to the editorial, "The legislation would empower local community agencies to help train and monitor volunteer caregivers over the age of 18, who would provide assistance to families by cleaning, preparing food or even shopping for people who want to remain at home while spelling family members.It would enable older Americans to live independently by remaining in their homes longer…Casey’s proposal is a starting point, but it also could be much more than that. It could provide a path to encourage interaction between young and old alike and to bridge generations rather than building walls. And it would offer a much-needed respite for that 49-year-old woman who is devoting countless hours caring for parents as well as children."

NIH

  • An August 22, 2014 NBC News article reported on the popularity of the ice bucket challenge, its impact on ALS research, and cut backs in research funding at NIH. According to the article, "But if you really want to support medical research, get on the phone to your member of Congress and demand a stop to cutting the National Institutes of Health budget, experts say. That’s because private donations are a figurative drop in the bucket compared to U.S. government funding. NIH pays out $30 billion a year for medical research, compared to about $5 billion raised by philanthropy in 2007…Although Congress doubled the NIH budget in 1998, the NIH budget has declined by about 25 percent — more than $6 billion — over the last decade. It’s bad, Collins agrees. NIH has cut in half the number of grants for research funding it approves. “Right now we are leaving about half of the good ideas on the table for lack of resources,” Collins told NBC News. Only 16 percent of applications get funded, compared to 30 percent 10 years ago."

 

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