About Alzheimer's & Dementia

Cause & cure Research on early diagnosis

As a first step towards acceptance of the changes in my husband [after his diagnosis] I made a phone call to the Alzheimer’s Society of Calgary to sign up for a course. After explaining my intent, and before anything else was said, the person on the other end of the phone asked, “How are you doing?” So unexpected, so sincere, so compassionate, so moving. We chatted for a long time.

- A person who reached out to us

I don't know what I'd do without Club 36! It really gives me the break I need to be able to keep him at home a little longer.

- An Adult Day Program "Club 36" family member

Research on early diagnosis

Therapy seen to restore brain’s ability to clear amyloid plaques in the early stage of the disease

Researchers working in mice reported that an experimental drug, NTRX-07, may treat Alzheimer’s by targeting a potential cause — it was seen to ease brain inflammation in the animals by restoring the brain’s ability to remove clumps of the beta-amyloid protein that is a hallmark of the disease.
The excessive accumulation of the beta-amyloid protein in neurons promotes the onset of inflammatory processes in the brain, causing nerve cell damage and loss, and is thought responsible for such symptoms as cognitive deficits, memory loss and dementia. Treatment with NTRX-07 was seen to decrease inflammation and protect neurons and brain regenerative cells, as well as restore memory abilities in the mice. Researchers found that NTRX-07 targets the CB2 receptors, a group of proteins present in microglia, activating these cells and strengthening their anti-inflammatory “cleaning” effect. The drug improved the removal of the beta-amyloid aggregates, with a positive impact on the animals’ memory performance and other cognitive skills.
Source: Alzheimer’s News Today

CSF biomarkers

CSF is considered a better source for biomarker development than blood or urine, as it is in direct contact with the extracellular space of the brain and can reflect biochemical changes that occur inside the brain. Thus far, three CSF biomarkers, Aβ42, total-tau (t-tau), and phosphorylated-tau (p-tau), have been found to have the highest diagnostic potential. Elevated tau and phosphorylated tau and reduced Aβ42, is highly suggestive of Alzheimer's Disease (AD).

Imaging technologies

Imaging technologies have transformed the study of neurodegenerative diseases by giving scientists a glimpse of what is happening inside the brains of living patients. The loss of brain volume is one of the consequences of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) neurodegeneration and it could be differentiated from a healthy brain by using computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques. These techniques are able to show neuronal loss, atrophy of medial temporal regions, as well as neurofibrillary tangles in the brain of AD patients. According to a recommendation made by the Neuroimaging Working Group of the Alzheimer’s Association, CT imaging is to be included in the repertoire of tests for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias.
Using MRI, it is now possible to distinguish atrophy during early stages of AD from the atrophy of normal aging. It can show hippocampal shrinkage as early as ten years before the onset of symptoms of AD. MRI can reveal disease progression from cognitive normalcy to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and to AD. Differentiation of Alzheimer's disease from other types of dementia, namely, frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and DLB (Dementia with Lewy Bodies) is also possible based on different atrophy patterns that MRI reveals.
Source: CSF biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis
At the 66th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers touted the potential of several positron emission tomography (PET) tracers to improve diagnoses. A tau tracer under development looks promising for characterizing several types of frontotemporal degeneration (FTD), while amyloid imaging distinguishes effectively between FTD and Alzheimer’s disease in young dementia patients, according to researchers. Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) PET was confirmed once again to reveal lowered brain metabolism in people who carry one or more ApoE4 alleles, the main genetic risk factor for sporadic Alzheimer's disease, though surprisingly, this effect occurred in people young and old, with or without amyloid deposits.

Source: The Use of MRI and PET for Clinical Diagnosis of Dementia and Investigation of Cognitive Impairment: A Consensus Report. Prepared by the Neuroimaging Work Group1 of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Possibility of a new blood test that predicts the probability of developing Alzheimer’s disease with 90% accuracy

Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center claim to have developed a blood test capable of predicting whether a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease. They found that some biomarkers in the blood could be used to predict whether a person would develop Alzheimer’s disease within three years with 90% accuracy.
Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Centre examined 525 healthy participants aged 70 and over and monitored them over a period of 5 years. They regularly analyzed their blood samples and found that individuals who developed dementia had lower levels of 10 particular lipids than the healthy seniors in the group. The blood test predicted who would develop Alzheimer’s disease or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) with 90% accuracy.
If the blood test gets approved, then it could help detect Alzheimer's disease before the person even experienced symptoms. This could also widen the window of opportunity for treatment of Alzheimer's disease and the medications may have greater efficacy during the early stages of dementia. Moreover, it would give people more time to do some of the things in their bucket list and plan for their future.


Alzheimer’s disease: In the eye of the patient?

Some researchers at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2014, held July 12-17 in Copenhagen, believe that the eyes can be the portal to detect Alzheimer’s changes in the brain. Two groups presented results about detecting Aβ in the eye. One team reported that Aβ in the retina correlates with plaque buildup in the brain, while another has similar results from the lens.
Both propose to develop these biomarkers as early screening tests for Alzheimer’s disease. “PET amyloid imaging and magnetic resonance are expensive,” said David Knopman, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved in either study. If they pan out, these developing techniques may prove “simpler, less invasive, and more feasible to use in a primary-care setting as opposed to a large research center.”


Brain Changes Detected Before the Onset of Dementia Symptoms

A recent collaborative study from University of Toronto and the Baycrest Rotman Research Institute explored the correlation between brain volume and cognitive symptoms, through brain imaging.
The researchers were interested in seniors living independently who didn’t have any notable cognitive issues but whose memory test scores suggested that further testing for dementia was advisable. 40 adults meeting the above criteria and aged 59 – 81 performed the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) memory test and underwent MRI scans to quantify the volume of the brain as a whole, as well as the anterolateral entorhinal cortex (AEC) specifically (the area where Alzheimer’s disease originates).
While whole-brain volume was not correlated with MoCA performance, a low volume of AEC was strongly associated with poorer scores on the MoCA. Researcher Morgan Barense stated that “this work is an important first step in determining a procedure to identify older adults living independently at home without memory complaints who are at risk for dementia. The MoCA is good at diagnosing mild cognitive impairment (MCI – a  condition that is likely to develop into Alzheimer’s) and we are seeing that it may identify MCI in people who are not aware of a decline in their memory and thinking skills.”
Source: University of Toronto May 11 2017

Difficulty in identifying subtle image differences may indicate future likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease

People who have trouble detecting details in a test with figures may be at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease later in life, according to a new study. This finding suggests that subtle changes in cognition may be identified long before more common symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear.
The study, “Family History of Alzheimer’s Disease is Associated with Impaired Perceptual Discrimination of Novel Objects,” appeared in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Researchers cautioned that this test is not definitive in detecting Alzheimer’s, but may help clinicians identify which at-risk subjects may develop the disease over time.
Source: Alzheimer's News Today

Can a cheek swab be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease?

Canada’s 3D Signatures has developed a simple cheek swab to identify patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and even distinguish among those with mild, moderate or severe stages of the illness, according to results from a clinical trial.1
The analyses, based on the company’s TeloView software platform, will appear in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The search for sensitive and non-invasive markers to detect Alzheimer’s has been a hot topic lately. For now, scientists can only make a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s after death, and amyloid plaques are detected in a patient’s brain. And although current imaging methods can detect the Alzheimer’s protein in the brains of living people, doctors don’t consider this method practical for routine screening.
3 D Signatures tested its TeloView platform on 44 patients with Alzheimer’s and an equal number of healthy controls of the same age and sex. All patients provided a cheek swab sample; the platform then produced telomeric profiles from cells taken from inside the cheek.
According to 3D, the software was able to correctly pick those with Alzheimer’s. It further identified those with mild and moderate forms of AD as well as those with severe dementia. Based on this data, 3D Signatures calls TeloView a promising potential new biomarker and monitoring tool.
Source: Alzheimer's News Today

The Alzheimer’s Society has been a great resource for our family on this journey through the disease with my Dad.