May 01, 2017

Today’s Top Alzheimer’s News


A May 1, 2017 STAT article reported that under a bipartisan spending deal reached late Sunday night in Congress, the National Institutes of Health will get a $2 billion funding boost over the next five months. It includes an extra $400 million to research Alzheimer’s disease, and increases spending on the BRAIN Initiative with an extra $110 million to support work mapping the human brain.

According to a May 1, 2017 STAT article, Neurotrope BioScience announced modestly encouraging results for an experimental Alzheimer’s drug (Bryostatin-1) derived from a sea creature (Bugula neritina). The drug aims to preserve neurons and create new synapses to ward off memory loss and help a damaged brain recover. “What’s interesting about this compound is it seems to have two mechanisms of action. It boosts enzymes that degrade amyloid and also increases synaptogenesis, [which] adds to our portfolio of potential ways to treat Alzheimer’s,” said Dean Hartley, Alzheimer’s Association’s Director of Science Initiatives.

An April 30, 2017 The Kansas City Star guest commentary, by Eric J. Nestler and David Holtzman, implores citizens to call on their members of Congress to make biomedical research a top national priority. They highlight how much federal investment in basic science research has improved our health and wellbeing, advancing understanding about illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease. The proposed nearly 20% NIH cut ($5.8 billion) would be devastating to the search for treatments of more than 1,000 debilitating brain and spinal cord diseases that directly affect over 100 million Americans each year.

An April 28, 2017 Wired article explored the intersection of risk factors that cause Alzheimer’s disease and cautioned not to give into the “next wave of Alzheimer’s hysteria.” Although there is not one universal “cause,” it is also not quite random, as most people who develop it carry a single genetic mutation. Many scientists believe it is a combination of environmental factors: a series of chemical exposures, dietary choices, or hits on the head.


An April 28, 2017 CNN article spotlighted a new study in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, which reports that diabetes may be a predisposing or risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease. Overweight and obese people with early-stage type 2 diabetes have more severe abnormalities in brain structure and cognition than normal-weight people with type 2 diabetes. According to Dr. Donald C. Simonson, one of the study’s co-authors, “The brain has been the proverbial black box. It's incredibly complicated, and you can't directly study it. You can't go in and take samples. The last several years, the techniques of MRI got good enough that we could really look carefully at the brain."

An April 28, 2017 MIT Technology Review article reports that finding a reliable way to spot people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is important because they are most likely to benefit from treatment. One way to do this is with positron emission tomography (PET) scans of the brain. Hongyoon Choi (Cheonan Public Health Center) and Kyong Hwan Jin (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) developed a “deep learning” technique to accurately (81%) identify people likely to develop AD in the next three years. That is significantly higher than trained observers.