Three Alzheimer’s Breakthroughs


ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and it seems every day we are learning more about this debilitating disease. Right now, more than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and researchers are working hard to find out why some people get it, some people don’t and how to stop it. Three breakthroughs could end up saving millions of lives.

Every 60 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease.

“There is a huge need for new Alzheimer’s disease treatments,” said Jason Ulrich, PhD, Research Professor at Washington University.

One major breakthrough in the lab, a blood test that predicts the onset of Alzheimer’s 20 years before symptoms occur. It works by detecting the buildup of microscopic clumps of amyloid plaques in the brain.

“These clumps kind of break up the communication between our neurons that are needed for us to think and remember and do things that we normally do,” shared Randall Bateman, MD, Professor of Neurology with Washington University School of Medicine.

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine report that when the amyloid levels are combined with age and a gene variant, brain changes can be identified with 94% accuracy. But that’s not all. Now they are working to create a blood test to determine the presence of tangles that occur after Alzheimer’s symptoms appear.

“So, when people do have subtle memory problems, we can tell whether, is it really due to Alzheimer’s disease, or is it likely due to some other cause?” explained Dr. Bateman.

These simple blood tests could be available during a regular doctors visit within two years, bypassing the need for expensive tests and procedures.

“We can send as many people as we want to get a blood test and they can get it that day,” stated Suzanne Schindler, MD, PhD, Neurologist at Washington University.

(Read Full Interview)

Another breakthrough uses antibodies to alert the immune system to the presence of plaques and directs immune cells to remove them.

“When we administer it to mouse models that develop this disease, it removes these plaques from the brain and from the blood vessels,” said Ulrich.

Three ways researchers are working to save our memories before it’s too late.

In June, the FDA approved the first new drug for Alzheimer’s disease in 18 years. Aduhelm targets the amyloid plaques in the brain, while also possibly slowing cognitive decline. Late last month the drug maker reported aduhelm brought in $300,000 in revenue from July to September, which fell short of Wall Street’s expectations.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.

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BACKGROUND: Experts say that more than 6 million Americans aged 65 and older may have Alzheimer’s. Memory problems are usually one of the first signs, although initial symptoms may vary from person to person. A decline in vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may also signal early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that can be an early sign, but not everyone with MCI will develop the disease. The time from diagnosis to death varies as little as three or four years if a person is older than 80 when diagnosed, to as long as 10 or more years if a person is younger.


STAGES OF ALZHEIMER’S: In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, a person may still drive, work and be part of social activities, even though they may be having memory lapses like forgetting familiar words or the location of everyday objects. Middle-stage Alzheimer’s is usually the longest stage and can last for many years. During this stage, the person may confuse words, get frustrated or angry, and act in unexpected ways, such as refusing to bathe. Damage to nerve cells in the brain can also make it difficult for the person to express thoughts and perform routine tasks without assistance. In the final stage of the disease, dementia symptoms become severe. Individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation, and eventually, to control movement. They may still say words or phrases, but communicating pain becomes difficult. As symptoms get worse, significant personality changes may occur and extensive care needed.


PROMISING NEW TEST FOR ALZHEIMER’S: Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that levels of a specific protein in the blood rise as amyloid plaques form in the brain. The protein can be detected in the blood of people who have yet to show signs of mild cognitive impairment, making it a promising test to diagnose Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear. Randall J. Bateman, MD, the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Distinguished Professor of Neurology, and colleagues are working on this blood test that shows promise at distinguishing people with amyloid in their brains from those without. They realized that a different Alzheimer’s protein, called tau, may also be useful for identifying which people have amyloid plaques silently gathering in their brains. “The finding of a unique tau species that is closely linked to changes caused by amyloid plaques will help to identify and predict people who have or will likely develop Alzheimer’s disease,” said Bateman.





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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Suzanne Schindler, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology

Read the entire Q&A