May 08, 2017

Today’s Top Alzheimer’s News


A May 6, 2017 The Guardian article focused on the Prevent project, based at Edinburgh University, a long-term study working to detect signs of Alzheimer’s in people while they are still relatively young. They have discovered that losing navigational skills or getting lost in familiar settings may provide some of the first indications of AD later in life. “Alzheimer’s is considered to be a disease of memory but we now think from our early work that the difficulty people are really having – at least to begin with – is not to do with declining memories but to do with their declining ability to visualize the location of objects or themselves. They are losing their ability to navigate,” said Karen Ritchie, one of the study’s researchers. 

A May 5, 2017 QUARTZ article looked at the results of an alternative paradigm in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, from a research group at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Beginning from the premise that AD is a particular manifestation of a highly complex system in disarray, they sought to optimize the system by changing the inputs through multi-faceted, comprehensive lifestyle interventions. It is difficult for these types of approaches to gain traction because these protocols are more challenging than simply taking a pill at bedtime, and require ongoing education, counseling and support to effect meaningful change.  

A May 4, 2017 The Washington Post article spotlighted the “Just Us at the National Gallery of Art” program, which leads people with memory loss and their caregivers through meditations on different paintings. “Topics that have a lot of entry points allow for a lot of exploration. We invite them to start looking and sharing their ideas, and that works for everybody. Art brings up a lot of things. Art connects people back to who they were,” said Lorena Bradford, the museum’s Head of Accessible Programs, whose grandparents had dementia. According to one participating caregiver, “It’s life-giving for the caregivers, too, to see and appreciate art. It boosts your brain and your soul on a very deep level.”

According to a May 3, 2017 Harvard Gazette article, healthy eating can help us keep fit, live longer and contribute to healthy aging because ‘we become what we eat.’ Recent studies show that a healthy diet can also boost the brain, slow cellular aging and improve cognitive function. According to Frank Hu, Head of Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “Healthy, plant-based foods can improve vascular health, not just in the heart but in the brain. And that can slow down the aging of the brain and cellular aging, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The evidence is very encouraging because, even among old people, when they improve their diet quality, the risks of getting chronic diseases and mortality can be reduced, and longevity can be improved.” 


A May 5, 2017 medGadget video and article reported on the first Alzheimer’s patient to be treated using ultrasound to open up the blood-brain barrier, with an Exablate Neuro system from Insightec, delivering low frequency ultrasound. Researchers at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Canada are evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the technique on such patients.


A May 5, 2017 The Kansas City Star video and article focused on Senator Jerry Moran’s work to steer some of the NIH’s funds to Kansas. Moran met with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center to find out what they’re working on and strategize acquiring more federal funding for their efforts. KU’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center is a National Institute on Aging designated national Alzheimer’s center and will receive at least $9 million in NIH grants through 2021.


Novelist Marita Golden will be reading from “The Wide Circumference of Love,” a family drama of love and devotion in the face of early-onset Alzheimer’s. 2pm on May 21st at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Ms. Golden will be joined in conversation with Lisa Page, Director of the Creative Writing Program at George Washington University, followed by reception and book signing.