Gum Disease And/Or Herpes: Alzheimer’s Culprits?

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Science doesn’t always proceed linearly straight-forward. Quite often, it zigs and zags between competing hypotheses which can even be contradictory. Evidence is beginning to accumulate that this may indeed be the case with Alzheimer’s research. For over thirty years, from the early 1980’s, the dominant hypothesis has been that the accumulations of amyloid and tau protein plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients are abnormal and are the cause of the mental decline of those patients. So research focused on how to directly halt or mitigate the growth of those plaques, and that work has been strikingly disappointing. Quite large amounts of money have been invested in attempting to develop drugs which function directly against the plaque accumulation, yet none have been successful in human trials.

The hypothesis that there might be an external physical cause for the plaque accumulation, that there might be a bacterial or viral agent prompting the amyloid and tau accumulations, that the plaque accumulations might actually be a way the brain fights back against certain invaders, was regarded a heresy. But now there is developing evidence that there might be one or two or even more invading agents against which the brain attempts to fight back with the amyloid and tau plaques. (For the story of one of the herpes researchers, see How an outsider in Alzheimer’s research bucked the prevailing theory — and clawed for validation.)

We posted earlier (Herpes & Alzheimer’s and Herpes & Alzheimer’s — More) about studies strongly suggesting that the Herpes virus may be one of the causative agents. Separately, other studies (Periodontitis is associated with cognitive impairment among older adults: analysis of NHANES-III and
Inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease: Possible role of periodontal diseases
) have suggested Periodontal diseases as similar agents. Now a new study strongly suggests that this may indeed be the case.

Here are four media articles about the newest work:
We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s – and how to stop it
DEMENTIA AND GUM DISEASE: ALZHEIMER’S LINKED TO GINGIVITIS
Gum Disease Bacteria Found in Alzheimer’s Brains
How gum disease could lead to Alzheimer’s

And here is the research report on the work:
Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors

All links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors and Neuro-Psych

Mild Cognitive Impairment Risk: Lowering Blood Pressure Can Help

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Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the precursor stage to serious dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment. These problems are more substantial than the ordinary normal age-related mental changes. It’s well known that if you have high blood pressure, it is very beneficial to your heart to lower it, perhaps dramatically, to a systolic blood pressure less than 120 mmHg. A new study shows that such lowering can also measurably reduce the risk of MCI.

Here are six media articles on the work:
Lowering blood pressure may help cut risk of early dementia, study finds
Lowering blood pressure could cut risk factor for dementia
Mild cognitive impairment: Reducing blood pressure can lower risk
Treating high blood pressure could reduce risk of memory issues, study finds
Study Offers Hint of Hope for Staving Off Dementia in Some People
Major New Study Finds Lowering Blood Pressure Can Prevent Cognitive Decline, but Questions Remain
Here is the National Institutes of Health press release on the study:
Does intensive blood pressure control reduce dementia?

Here is a link to the study itself:
Effect of Intensive vs Standard Blood Pressure Control on Probable Dementia

All links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Amelioration/Prevention and Alzheimer’s > Risk Factors.

Coping & Caregiving: Bittersweet Stories

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Memories — stolen by dementia, saved by family, friends, by caregivers, and by the patient — a writer — in his own essay:

As bittersweet as can be:
Couple Renews Wedding Vows After Husband With Alzheimer’s Disease Forgets He’s Married

Accepting a sufferer’s wonderful, wild story:
A Boyfriend Too Good to Be True

A family struggled to save a pianist’s music before Alzheimer’s could steal it, and a professional musician helped bring his music to life again:
HIS HEART, HER HANDS

Caring for a patient suffering from dementia means coming to terms with the frustrating paradoxes of memory and language:
The deviousness of dementia {An edited version of:} Hope Is the Enemy

Mothers, fondly and bittersweetly remembered:
Everything my mom remembers: Our love and memories, her Alzheimer’s
My Mother, Lost and Found

Terry Pratchett, fighting back:
‘A butt of my own jokes’: Terry Pratchett on the disease that finally claimed him

All the links are in Alzheimer’s > Coping & Caregivers > Coping Stories.

Irisin, Exercise & Alzheimer’s

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Irisin is a messenger hormone generated by muscles during exercise. Recent research shows that higher levels of irisin circulating in the blood is correlated with diminished risk of Alzheimer’s: One more reason to maintain at least a moderate exercise program.

Here are seven media articles about irisin, exercise, and Alzheimer’s, together with a research review article, and the most recent research article:

The molecule that helps exercise protect the brain from Alzheimer’s
Exercise produces irisin — irisin might prevent Alzheimer’s, researchers say
‘Exercise Hormone’ Could Slow Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
A hormone released during exercise might protect against Alzheimer’s
To Burn Fat, You Could Exercise … or Shiver
How Exercise May Help Keep Our Memory Sharp
Irisin: The “Exercise Hormone” has Powerful Health Benefits

Research article:
Exercise-linked FNDC5/irisin rescues synaptic plasticity and memory defects in Alzheimer’s models
Research review article:
The Role of Irisin in Alzheimer’s Disease

All links have been added to Alzheimers > Amelioration/Prevention and Health > Physical Exercise.

Public People: Brave Revelations

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Disease of most sorts has always carried a sense of shame, but dementia seems to carry an especially heavy stigma. This has lessened as more has been learned about the disease, including the fact that is indeed a disease! Moreover, this has been aided by the brave disclosures of dementia diagnoses from public figures. Here we’ve collected links to articles about a number of such figures, in no particular order.

Sandra Day O’Connor
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announces she has been diagnosed with dementia
Sandra Day O’Connor Says She Has Dementia, Withdraws From Public Life
As she faces dementia, Sandra Day O’Connor is a pioneer again

Ted Turner
Ted Turner reveals he has Lewy body dementia
Ted Turner reveals he’s battling Lewy body dementia in exclusive interview

Gene Wilder
Gene Wilder’s widow on what it’s like to care for someone with Alzheimer’s

Glenn Campbell
Glen Campbell: His Courageous Fight with Alzheimer’s Disease (see also Review: ‘I’ll Be Me’ Is Glen Campbell’s Farewell to His Fans and Himself

Ronald Regan
Read Ronald Reagan’s Letter to the American People About His Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Pat Summit
Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease

Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston has Alzheimer’s symptoms (also Charlton Heston’s Alzheimer’s Announcement and Goodbye)

Terry Pratchett
‘A butt of my own jokes’: Terry Pratchett on the disease that finally claimed him

Malcolm Young
AC/DC’s Malcolm Young has dementia, family says

Kathy Griffin’s Mother
Kathy Griffin reveals mother’s diagnosis
Kathy Griffin Reveals Mom Maggie Has Dementia In Heartbreaking Post

A related article:
Dementia Is Getting Some Very Public Faces

Exercise And Alzheimer’s

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In an earlier post, we pointed to work showing that one’s aerobic fitness level inversely correlates with one’s overall mortality risk: The higher one’s fitness level, the lower one’s risk of dying. And in another post, we pointed at work demonstrating the relationship between cardiac health and dementia, again an inverse relationship: The more you improve your cardiac health, the more you lower your risk of dementia. So it certainly follows that exercising to improve your heart health will lower your risk of dementia. And studies show that this is the case. One in particular showed strikingly that higher fitness levels correlate strongly with lower risk of dementia:
Dementia study links your risk with your fitness level
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Studies continue to show directly that performing physical exercise is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia. Almost certainly, part of the benefit is due to the positive effect of exercise on your heart health, and that in turn improves blood flow to your brain, reducing your dementia risk.

The studies have ranged from intense 7-10 minute aerobic interval training to 30-minute walks. Clearly interval training will have more of an effect on your body than 30-minute walks. However, even those walks will have an effect, including the likely effect of reducing mental/emotional stress. And one very important point is to maintain a regular exercise program. If you start ambitiously and fall off to nothing, you haven’t done yourself much good.
—-
For maintaining both mental and physical health and strength, it’s quite tempting to think that massive intense workouts are necessary, both physical and mental. However, regularity is easily as much or more important for both. We’ll explore this in future posts.

The new link above has been added to Health > Physical Exercise.

Practical Mental Exercise For Brain Fitness

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Studies about what affects the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias are thick on the ground, and new ones pop up regularly. The things that turn up consistently for protecting your brain are:

  • Regular physical exercise (moderate to strong)
  • Staying mentally active (see articles below)
  • Staying social (from outings with friends to volunteer activities)
  • Good diet (tending towards the Mediterranean, Japanese, or Nordic diets)
  • No smoking (quit if you haven’t already)
  • Manage alcohol intake (from none to low)
  • Weight control and heart health (keep weight moderate and lower high blood pressure)

Here are three articles about keeping your brain fit by keeping mentally active in everyday life, by a memory champion, by an MD who runs a university memory clinic, and by a brain researcher about brain fitness in everyday life:

Keeping your brain fit, by a USA Memory Champion
Mind games: a mental workout to help keep your brain sharp
A brain scientist who studies Alzheimer’s explains how she stays mentally fit

All links have been added to Mental Agility

Alzheimer’s Vaccine…For Mice, Monkeys, and Rabbits

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It’s of course widely accepted that potential drugs for human use must first successfully pass through animal testing. Unfortunately, that in no way guarantees that the candidate drug will be efficacious for the human animal. And this has be depressingly common for drugs directed at Alzheimer’s. Quite a few have done well when tested in the mice model, yet have fallen flat during human testing. (The disappointment of the researchers who have spent years of hard, hopeful work must be brutal.)

Last week a paper was published describing another possible vaccine against Alzheimer’s. It is the latest in about 10 years of work, in which the idea has been tested previously in monkeys and rabbits, and now reports the positive outcomes in mice. The researchers hope that human trials might begin within 3-5 years. Below are links to an institutional press release about the work, to a media article about the work, and to the research paper itself.

DNA Vaccine Reduces Both Toxic Proteins Linked to Alzheimer’s

DNA vaccine reduces both toxic proteins linked to Alzheimer’s

Research article:
Active full-length DNA Aβ42 immunization in 3xTg-AD mice reduces not only amyloid deposition but also tau pathology

All three links have been added to Alzheimers > Treatment > Drugs.

Promising Non-Invasive Tests For Predicting Possible Dementia

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Two promising non-invasive tests for predicting possible future dementia have been reported.

The first test used an ultrasound scanner to examine the pulses in the neck arteries of nearly 3200 people in 2002. The study then monitored their cognitive functions until 2016, and found that those people with the most intense pulses and irregular blood flow in the neck arteries were up to 50% more likely to experience cognitive decline, which is a strong sign of oncoming dementia. If the results can be replicated in larger studies, this test could become routine and widespread in doctors’ offices.

Here are links to two media articles on the work, together with a link to the abstract of the study:

Dementia risk: Five-minute scan ‘can predict cognitive decline’
Five-minute neck scan can spot dementia 10 years earlier, say scientists
Meeting-presented abstract:
Abstract 13364: Carotid Artery Wave Intensity Measured in Mid- to Late-Life Predicts Future Cognitive Decline: The Whitehall II Study

The second test can be carried out by an optician during routine annual examinations of patients’ eyes. During such routine annual exams, the optician examines the state of the patient’s retinas. This study showed that the thinness of the retina is correlated with the likelihood of cognitive decline: Healthy patients with the thinnest retinal layers were seen to be twice as likely to later experience cognitive decline. Such thinness of the retinal layer could be routinely checked by opticians.

Below are links to two media articles about the study, together with the study abstract:

Optician’s eye test ‘could spot early dementia signs’
Retinal Thinning Tied to Cognitive Decline
Research abstract:
Association of Retinal Nerve Fiber Layer Thinning With Current and Future Cognitive Decline

All links have been added to Alzheimer’s > Diagnosis & Tests

Zombie Mice Brain Cells: Clearance Stops Cognitive Decline

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Bodies, both mice and human, have a natural anti-cancer defense. Cells which have accumulated so many mutations that might lead to uncontrolled growth (i.e., cancer) move into senescent mode; they cease dividing and are eventually eliminated by the immune system.

Recently published research on mice has demonstrated the rather striking finding occurring when clearing or flushing all senescent cells from the brains of mice genetically bred to exhibit signs of dementia: “When senescent cells were removed, we found that the diseased animals retained the ability to form memories, eliminated signs of inflammation, did not develop [protein] tangles, and had maintained normal brain mass.”

Below are links to three media articles on the work, together with a link to the research article abstract.

Removing faulty brain cells staves off dementia in mice
Over-the-hill cells may cause trouble in the aging brain
Zombie cells found in brains of mice prior to cognitive loss
Research abstract:
Clearance of senescent glial cells prevents tau-dependent pathology and cognitive decline

All links have been added to
Alzheimer’s > Neurology & Neuroplasticity