Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention
Scientists are making exciting headway in the search for a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the world’s preeminent physicians and neuroscientists met in Copenhagen for the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference (AAIC). The six-day gathering is the largest of its kind and featured more than 100 sessions on a diverse range of Alzheimer’s disease topics.
Modifying lifestyle factors can prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Investigators presented high-quality evidence demonstrating that exercise, a healthy diet, moderate alcohol consumption, education and effective management of hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In fact, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is actually decreasing in developed nations, where individuals are already deploying many of these lifestyle interventions.
Two promising immune therapies (“vaccines”) may slow cognitive decline and the course of the disease.
While Genentech’s phase-three clinical trial of an anti-amyloid antibody therapy for Alzheimer’s disease, crenezumab, failed because it did not meet its primary endpoints, an additional analysis suggested it did slow cognitive decline (by over 30 percent) in early-stage Alzheimer’s patients. Coupled with results from Lilly’s antibody therapy trial in 2012, which also showed a decrease in cognitive decline in early-stage patients, the research provides some indication that clearing amyloid at the earliest stages of the disease may benefit a subset of patients. We’ll need further research evaluating larger populations to confirm these findings, some of which is already underway.
We can now see Alzheimer’s disease tangles with brain-imaging tools.
Many physicians are currently utilizing FDA-approved brain-imaging tests to detect amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients, but these plaques can be present in individuals who never develop symptoms of the disease. New imaging agents target the tangles (clumps of tau) that are the tombstones of dying neurons and are likely to be a better surrogate for tracking Alzheimer’s disease progression and determining the efficacy of any given drug. Researchers at the AAIC also noted that some of these imaging tools may work for related diseases that also have tangles, such as frontotemporal dementia, and could be used to assess tau pathology in the brain after a traumatic head injury.
Treatments that target systemic inflammation offer promise to Alzheimer’s disease patients. Inflammation increases with aging, and systemic inflammation is increasingly recognized as a risk factor and a driver of Alzheimer’s disease. An analysis of data from a previous clinical trial presented at the AAIC showed that patients with markers of high inflammation in their blood responded more positively to a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) treatment naproxen (Aleve), while patients with low levels of inflammation were worsened by the treatment.
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Gary Chandler is a prion expert. Chandler is connecting the dots to the global surge in neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and other forms of prion disease. The scientific name for prion disease is transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.