Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s

New Study Shows Link between Blood Vessel Disease and Alzheimer’s

Study Suggests Possibility of New Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s disease

Though not definitive, a new study recently published in The Lancet Neurology, offers some hope that we might have another tool in our efforts to prevent or diminish the impact of Alzheimer’s dementia.

The study, conducted at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, involved analysis of data from post-mortem examinations of the brain cells of 1,143 individuals. The analysis found a link between blood vessel disease and Alzheimer’s, specifically atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis. The study’s authors stress that at this point, they can only state that there is a link but not the nature of it. For this, more research is needed. Nevertheless, the findings do open up the possibilities of new prevention strategies.

 Alzheimer's disease

Atherosclerosis is when layers of fat enter the vessels, causing a build-up of plaque. Arteriosclerosis is a thickening of the blood vessels. Both are referred to as cardiovascular disease. We have known that stroke is a causative factor in developing dementia but a possible link between blood vessel disease and Alzheimer’s has not been researched. The Chicago study titled, “Relation of Cerebral Vessel Disease to Alzheimer’s Disease Dementia and Cognitive Function in Elderly People; a Cross-sectional Study,” implies that there is such a link.

Scientists examined the brain autopsy data for indicators of Alzheimer’s and of blood vessel disease in the brain. Of the 1,143 deceased individuals, half were over the age of 88 when they died, 42 percent had Alzheimer’s, 35 percent were stricken with arteriosclerosis and 39 percent with atherosclerosis. The research showed that as blood vessel disease worsened, the risk of Alzheimer’s rose. Scientists also found that patients with atherosclerosis demonstrated more severe cognitive dysfunction, especially in the areas of visuospatial abilities, semantic and episodic memory and speed of perception. The presence of APOE ε4, a gene known to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, was not compromised in the study.

Clearly, this is a very good beginning and with more research into how blood vessel disease is contributing to Alzheimer’s, we may have yet another way to identify patients at risk and be able to implement earlier and more effective treatment strategies.

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A Journey Through the Effects of Alzheimer’s on the Brain Part 2

Michael Mullan presents the 2nd part of : A Journey Through the Effects of Alzheimer’s on the Brain

read part 1 here

6 Signaling in the cells 

Thoughts and memories travel through nerve cells as minute electrical charges. 
One nerve cell connects to another one at synapses. As the tiny electrical charge reaches the synapse, it can release a burst of chemicals, known as neurotransmitters. The function of neurotransmitters is to carry signals to the other cells across the synapse. Scientists have discovered dozens of different neurotransmitters. 
Alzheimer’s is responsible for disrupting how electrical charges can travel while it also disrupts neurotransmitter’s activity.

Nerve Cell

 

 

7. Signal coding

With billions of nerve cells and trillions of synapses the power of the brain is sourced from numbers. Your experiences form patterns in the type of signals which explain how we are defined at a cellular level as your brain codes your memories, skills, thoughts and your sense of self. 

The scan to the left is called a positron emission tomography (PET) this shows brain activity patterns that are linked to: 

Reading of words 
Hearing words 
Thoughts about words 
Speaking words 

The red areas mark high activity levels through to the other end of the rainbow scale where yellow and violet mark low activity. 
Your patterns change over the years as you have new experiences, meet different people and learn new things. Alzheimer’s changes patterns by disrupting nerve cells and the connections between them. 

8. How Alzheimer’s Affects the Brain 

Alzheimer’s causes the brain to shrink over time, killing nerve cells and leading to tissue loss. The effects are widespread. 

A normal disease free brain 
The brain with advanced Alzheimer’s 
A comparison of the two 

Alzheimers  Brain

 

 

9. Further changes in the brain 

This is another dramatic view of the massive effects on the brain of advanced Alzheimer’s. The image is a crosswise slice of the brain. 
On the Alzheimer’s side: 
The cortex is shriveled, affecting the thought, planning and memory areas. 
The hippocampus is especially smaller than other areas, this part of the cortex controls new memory formation. 
The spaces in the brain, called ventricles, grow bigger 

10. Beneath the Microscope 

When viewed through the microscope scientists are able to see the devastating effects of the disease:

Alzheimer’s brain tissue has much less nerve cells and also synapses than a normal brain 
Build up of protein fragments called plaques occurs between the nerve cells 
The dying and dead nerve cells have tangles twisted strands made of other proteins. 

Although scientists are not certain what leads to the death of cells and loss of tissue in a brain with Alzheimer’s, the tangles and plaques are the prime suspects. 


A Journey Through the Effects of Alzheimer’s on the Brain Part 1

Michael Mullan presents a short introduction to the brain :

1. Three pounds of power

The human brain weighs 3 pounds, however it’s the body’s most potent organ. The brain closely resembles jelly to touch.

There are three main sections:

The Cerebrum: This occupies most of the skull and is responsible for memory, problem solving, feeling, thinking and movement.
The Cerebellum: Located at the rear of the skull and beneath the cerebrum, the cerebellum handles balance and your coordination.
The Brain Stem: Is also under the cerebrum but in front of the cerebellum. It is connected with the spinal cord and is in control of your automated functions including breathing, food digestion, blood pressure and heart rate.

2.The supply line

To feed your brain the body nourishes it with networks or rich blood vessels.
Every heartbeat sends arteries with approximately one quarter of your blood up to the brain. Here 20% of the fuel and oxygen carried in the blood

The Brain- Michael Mullan

is consumed by billions of cells.
If you’re deep in thought, you could be using up to one half of the oxygen and fuel.

The vessel network consists of capillaries and veins as well as arteries.

3. The cortex: The thinking layer

The wrinkled outside layer of your brain is called the cortex and it serves some very special functions. By mapping the cortex, scientists have been able to link specific functions to certain areas of the cortex.

These include:

Interpreting sensations in the body, sounds, sights and smells.
Creating thought, solving problems and making plans.
Controlling voluntary movement.

4. Left brain and right brain

Most people are aware that the brain has left and right sides, however experts are still not exactly sure how the left and right brains differ in their functions, with these exceptions:

The left side handles movement on the opposite right side of the body
The right side conversely controls movement on the left of the body

Brain Strength-Micheal Mullan

Generally language is processed on the left

5. Neuron Forests

The true activity in your brain occurs within individual cells. The adult brain has 100 billion nerve cells, called neurons, which connect to 100 trillion other points. This incredibly dense network is called a “neuron forest”.

Thoughts, memories and feelings are a result of a signal that travels through the neuron forest.
Alzheimer’s disease is responsible for destroying neurons.

Parkinson’s May Be Treated with E.coli

University of Michigan Symbol

University of Michigan Symbol

The Molecular Cell recently published a research paper conducted by the University of Michigan which discovered a protein in E. coli that is capable of restricting the formation of toxic amyloids – a common element of debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s. The formation of amyloids takes place when proteins form incorrectly, and they have the capacity to cause irreparable damage to brain tissue, even cellular death. The surprise findings by the University of Michigan researchers have the potential to lead to a therapeutic approach to the treatment of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, by targeting these amyloids.

Both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s share similarities in the way that amyloids affect them. However it has been found that E. coli and other cells are capable of assembling amyloids that are helpful to normal cellular function. The curli on the surface of E. coli cells have a protective role. These curli cause bacteria to stick to stomach walls in humans, thereby causing sickness. The beneficial amyloids that are produced by E. coli are not made inside the actual cell; therefore there is no toxicity for the bacteria.

There is something within E. coli that is capable of inhibiting the assemblage of amyloids within the cells. Since nothing takes place inside the cells, and protein synthesis takes place on the surface and is not toxic. Scientists conducted biochemical testing in order to understand precisely how E. coli blocked amyloids from forming within the cells. Ultimately a protein was discovered – CsgC – capable of inhibiting the formation of amyloids that are associated with diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

The research also discovered another possibility. Curli could be targeted for invading biofilms – shields to deter antibiotics and antiseptics. Although E. coli bacteria have the capacity to cause chronic infections, the new discoveries could lead to drug therapy capable of retarding the biofilms and making the bacteria more vulnerable by treating them with molecules that block the formation of curli.

Alzheimer’s : Gender Disparities

Alzheimer’s impacts women differently

Old lady

Alzheimer’s disease takes a heavier toll on women

Alzheimer’s, a disease that causes a degeneration in cognitive functioning, including memory and thought processing skills, is affecting 5 million Americans according to 2014 stats from the Alzheimer’s Association. Of these 5 million 3.2 million are women, two-thirds of the total. The disparities continue into the realm of caregiving. Women are more than twice as likely as men to be solely responsible for providing care to an Alzheimer’s sufferer, most commonly her spouse. In fact, it is reported that 65% of all US caregivers are women, who are providing round-the-clock care. So as well as being more likely to succumb to Alzheimer’s, women have a greater chance of being burdened with the intense physical and psychological challenges of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient.

Why the disparity?

A lot of discussion and study has gone into understanding the increased vulnerability of women to Alzheimer’s, but to date no concrete answer has been found. It has been pointed out of course that women generally live longer than men. Alzheimer’s typically manifests around the age of 65, and more women than men tend to live to this age, thereby skewing the statistics. At 65 women face a risk factor of 1:6 whereas men have a risk factor of 1:11. However, this does not give much satisfaction. Researchers are looking at the relationship between the higher risk factor and amyloid regulators such as hormones, and how that may affect women. Hormones such as testosterone and estrogen are known to act as amyloid inhibitors, with the amyloid protein being a causative agent in Alzheimer’s. Therefore, it is theorized that a woman in menopause, whose estrogen levels are radically reduced, no longer has this natural inhibiting agent blocking amyloid production. If true, then preventative strategies such as hormone replacement therapies should succeed in reducing the incidence of Alzheimer’s in older women: however to date this has not happened. Clearly, much more investigation and research is needed.

The Challenge

Alzheimer’s disease takes a heavier toll on women: more develop the disease than men and more are full-time caregivers. Women are less likely than men to receive outside help, burdening them with emotional and physical challenges that negatively impact their health. Future research into the disease must take into account this gender-based factor, and prioritize according.

Reviewing New Research in Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

Synapse in brainIn a recent article discussing the findings of Korean researchers into the use of new drugs targeting Alzheimer’s disease, Lauren Horne discusses how the team may have discovered new information in the fight against the development of the disease. The study, titled “GABA from reactive astrocytes impairs memory in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease”, is the work of Drs. Daesoo Kim and C. Justin Lee and was published in June of 2014 in the medical journal “Nature Medicine”. The article highlights how the neurotransmitter inhibitor GABA when released in higher dosages through the BESt1 channel has been shown to negatively affect the functioning of synaptic transmission, as well as plasticity, and memory. The research delves into the role that reactive astrocytes play in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly how it can be treated in the future.

According to the description of the study by Horne, the team in Korea began conducting their tests after discovering that there were large quantities of reactive astrocytes found in the brains of mice who had Alzheimer’s disease. In the course of their research, they found that the reactive astrocytes were creating the GABA transmitters through the enzyme Monoamine oxidase B(MAO-B). When the GABA transmitters were being released through the Bestrophin-1 channel, it was discovered that they were having a suppressive effect on the flow of normal information at the time of synaptic transmission.

In an attempt to reverse the effects of the B(MAO-B) that was being produced by the reactive astrocytes, the researchers utilized B(MAO-B) inhibitors to help return the levels to normal. This result of these changes was made clear in testing performed on mice with Alzheimer’s disease when their memory showed signs of improvement following the treatment. However, the benefits of the treatment using Selegiline as the inhibitor agent were not long lasting. While it has been shown to have positive results in treating Parkinson’s disease, it is unlikely that it will be use long term in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

While this study is only a preliminary entry into this avenue of research, I suspect that it holds great potential for further courses of study into finding a cure to Alzheimer’s disease.

How to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

The cognitive decline of an Alzheimer’s disease sufferer is heart-rending to family and friends. This disease is debilitating and as yet, has no certain cure. Although there is also no concrete way of predicting how Alzheimer’s will progress, recent studies show that lifestyle changes may play a significant role in deterring the disease. Preventing the onset of the disease requires therapeutic lifestyle modification early in life thereby reducing risk factors associated with the disease?

The Research

Several studies have been made in which it was concluded that lifestyle changes and social enhancement do indeed play a role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. The Finnish Geriatric Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) conducted one such study with astounding results. All the participants selected for the study were at risk for developing Alzheimer’s due to factors like age and heart health not being optimal. Participants were given basic healthcare across the board.

Only half of the participants were given a complete lifestyle make-over and a social support system that included cognitive training, control of risk factors and social activities. When the study ended after two years, these participants were in much better health than their peers who did not benefit from an improved lifestyle and social support. These individuals not only made significant improvement in their chances of avoiding Alzheimer’s disease but also drastically enhanced their quality of life – a win-win situation.

How to Start Making Changes

Try to adapt your lifestyle to make as many of the following changes as possible:
• Decide on a daily exercise regime: Consult a physician to ensure that it is suitable to your current health status.
• Eat healthy: In recent years the so-called Mediterranean diet has become associated with optimum health and considerably lower risk of cognitive decline. It consists of fresh ingredients like vegetables, fish and uses olive oil as the main source of fat. Avoid processed foods, excessive sugar, salt and saturated fats.
• If you smoke, stop. Damaging the brain vessels in any way increases inflammation and the risk of Alzheimer’s as well as many other serious health threats.
• Get enough sleep: Sleep is good for learning and memory and lack of it can seriously impact on your mental functions.
• Take supplements, but not to excess: Deficiencies in Folate and Vitamin B12 have been proven to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. However, nothing has been conclusively proven in studies conducted on the effects of other vitamins, minerals and fatty acids.
• Finally, avoid impact to your head if possible: It is a known fact that Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) increases the likelihood of Alzheimer’s. Accidents happen but taking precautions like wearing protective headgear when engaging in sports and investing in anti-slip mats around the home is an excellent practice.

While we cannot as yet cure the disease, it is possible to lower the risk with a lifestyle overhaul. Remember the sooner you adopt a healthier lifestyle, the more likely it is to be an effective preventative measure. Programs like Sci-Brain  that is developed to primarily address an objective way to optimize cognitive outcome based on reducing risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease based on Research at the Roskamp Institute.