How One Protein Could Erase All Damage Caused By Alzheimer’s

Wonder how researchers study Alzheimer’s? New stem cell research brings the hope of a future where the risk for Alzheimer’s has been eliminated. Learn more about the most recent research in this article:

What if you could have one little protein changed in one of your genes and no longer have to live with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease?

Is it really possible? Can it be true? There seems to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Researchers at the Gladstone Institute have been able to erase memory loss damage caused by Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Well… at least in the lab working with cells. Sounds pretty amazing, doesn’t it?

How Research is Combating Alzheimer’s

By using human cells, researchers have been able to pinpoint the protein that deprives a person of their memories. By removing an enzyme from a certain protein, apoE4, and turning it into an apoE3, it seems that memory damage can be erased and reversed. This means that if you know how to spot the early signs of Alzheimer’s, it may soon be possible to reverse the damage.

But let’s back up a little. Until recently, researchers have only been able to use mouse cells to conduct their research. While they have gained insight and moved forward in understanding the underlying mechanisms of AD, such as which genes and proteins are the primary culprits that increases one’s chances of getting AD, using mouse cells has not led researchers to totally reliable conclusions. The treatments that they have developed have turned out to not be as efficient in human trials as they had hoped. All because the gene and proteins studied do not perform the same way in mice as they do in humans. However, with the advent of what are called ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’ (iPSCs), it is now possible to use human cells in this vital research.

This technology that takes your run-of-the-mill cells and transforms them into stem cells is providing the backdrop for this very exciting research.

What the researchers discovered is that the apoE4 gene, which creates the apoE4 protein, increases the production of the amyloid beta protein in human cells. This gene does not perform the same way in mouse cells. The senior investigator at Gladstone Institute and lead author of the study, Yadong Huang, stated in a recent interview, “What’s important from this study is that we used human cells… many previous studies were performed on animal models or animal cells”.

What We Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer’s Now

This seems to be a game changer and yet it is too soon to say that this is a cure. These results are promising, especially since they were exhibited in human cells and not in animal cells. But these results will have to be repeated in humans. This team of researcher are now working to translate these findings into a compound so that human trials will eventually be possible.

In the meantime, do the things that we know minimize, slow down, and possibly help us to avoid cognitive impairment. A recent study published in JAMA Neurology suggest that the following:

• Be careful when taking heartburn medications. These medications use proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and, according to a German study, there is a possible link between dementia and PPIs when this type of drug is used by older adults.

• Take your vitamins. Look into what researchers are saying about how vital vitamin D3 is for us and how few people in our society actually get adequate amounts.

• Avoid or be very judicious when using those over-the-counter medications. Apparently there is a certain type of drug called an anticholinergic which include some over the counter sleep aids and sedating pain meds that change the structure and functioning abilities of the brain. This is all part of a recent study published in JAMA Neurology.

This quest to cure AD and unlock the mysteries that surround it are happening. Unfortunately, for far too many, it is not happening quickly enough. So in the meantime, it is up to each of us to learn how to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s so we can take care of ourselves as best as we can and make sure to have a good dose of daily joy for good measure!


How Long-Distance Caregiving Impacts Work Productivity

We have written a lot about the physical and emotional impact of being a long-distance caregiver, along with the high levels of stress that can lead to caregiver burnout. There is one more important issue to discuss and that is the impact that long-distance caregiving responsibilities can have on work. Caregiving duties can easily disrupt work schedules and career paths.

A national study of 1,130 long-distance caregivers conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving with Zogby International looked at the impact of caregiving on work and the MetLife Mature Market Institute℠ published a report on the findings. It paints a picture of compassionate caregivers who are struggling to balance caregiving, their personal life, and work.

There are approximately 34 million American caregivers and 15% of them live one hour or more away from the person in their care. In fact, among study participants, caregivers lived an average distance of 450 miles from their loved one and traveled 7.23 hours one-way to visit them.

The study found that when it comes to balancing work and caregiving responsibilities there are many challenges for caregivers including work interruptions because of time spent on the phone coordinating care, responding to calls from their loved one and more. The majority of respondents in this study, (80%), were working either full or part-time.

  • The percent of long-distance caregivers working part-time increased substantially from the 1997 study, growing from 8% to 18%.
  • More than four in ten had to rearrange their work schedules in order to take care of their caregiving responsibilities.
  • 36% reported missing days of work.
  • 12% took a leave of absence from work.
  • Men and women reported in equal numbers that they had to rearrange work schedules – leaving early, arriving late, taking unpaid leave, or considering changing employers to accommodate caregiving responsibilities.

Even though men and women both reported that caregiving disrupted their work, women reported losing greater numbers of hours. This is due to the fact that women in the study were more likely to report that they were the only or the main caregiver in their situation, thereby absorbing more of the impact of caregiving responsibilities.

  • Women reported missing an average of 24 hours of work per month as a result of caregiving as opposed to 17 hours reported by men.
  • Women also reported spending more time than men in helping the care recipient around their home; 23.5 hours for women as opposed to 21 hours for men.
  • Women reported spending 14.5 hours a month helping their loved one with personal care and men reported 11 hours.
  • On average, women spent more money each month on services needed by the care recipient, $751 as opposed to $490 spent by men.

These issues increase stress on long-distance caregivers exponentially. Not only do they worry about the health and well-being of their loved one, they also have to worry about the status of their job and their own financial well-being. As the senior population continues to grow, services need to address these conflicting priorities and help to support caregivers. You shouldn’t ever feel under-resourced, however, if you find yourself wondering what resources are out there for accommodating long-distance care here are few tips.

While employers become aware of these issues and hopefully move to create supportive workplaces, professional at-home caregivers can help. They can be an extension of care for the long-distance caregiver and serve as the eyes and ears in the home of their loved ones. Professional caregivers are trained in many specialties, from Alzheimer’s disease to Parkinson’s disease. They can provide hourly or daily care on a regular basis or in times of special need like after hospital discharge or suffering a stroke. Given the enormity of caregiving, having a professional to help on site with a loved one can be a relief and a great support system for long-distance caregivers.

Brain Exercises Linked to Decreased Risk of Dementia

Some cognitive training programs have earned a bad reputation in the media, and for good reason. These less reputable companies have made farfetched promises and claims that their products will prevent cognitive decline altogether. We know that complete prevention of dementia cannot be guaranteed, but cognitive training does engage and strengthen the brain, contributing to improved function of cognitive activity. Now, the latest research indicates a link between specific brain exercises and a decreased risk of symptoms associated with dementia.

The results of the Advanced Cognitive Training in Vital Elderly, or ACTIVE study, were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, the world’s largest gathering of Alzheimer’s researchers. The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research.

The ACTIVE study followed 2,832 healthy subjects between the ages of 65 to 94 years old for 10 years. The subjects were randomly split into 4 groups: those who completed speed training computer exercises, those who completed either memory or reasoning training with an instructor, or a control group who did not participate in cognitive exercises.

Researchers found that the groups who completed memory or reasoning training did not have a decreased risk for developing dementia, while the group who partook in speed training did have a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Memory training was a classroom-based course designed to teach memory boosting strategies, while reasoning training was a classroom-based course designed to sharpen subjects’ reasoning skills. Speed training included computer exercises that asked users to visually process information more quickly. Subjects completed 10 one-hour training sessions over five weeks with an instructor on hand to assist if needed. Some of these subjects had booster sessions one year later and three years later.

Subjects who underwent the first 10 hours of speed training had a 33% decreased risk of developing dementia within the next ten years. Individuals who received the additional speed training sessions had a 48% decreased risk of developing dementia. However, the study has neither been peer reviewed nor published in a medical journal; therefore, results are preliminary.

Although this study does not report that brain training is a cure-all for dementia, such training could lead the way to enhanced methods of brain stimulation. In fact, the ACTIVE study was reviewed, among other studies, as a part of the research and development effort behind the Cognitive Therapeutics Method™, Home Care Assistance’s cognitive stimulation program. The Cognitive Therapeutics Method is designed to promote brain health through personalized, one-on-one activities performed in the home.

To learn more about the method, visit


Hope that Alzheimer’s Memory Loss May Not Be Permanent

Currently 47.5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia worldwide. Although other cognitive deficits do develop, memory loss is one of the telltale signs of Alzheimer’s. Scientists have often wondered whether memory loss is a result of the person not being able to create and store new memories or simply having difficulty retrieving the memories.

In a recent study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), neuroscientists were able to retrieve memories that were “lost” due to Alzheimer’s disease in mice. This provides hope that memories lost to Alzheimer’s may one day be retrievable in humans.

The study compared a control group of normal mice with a group that was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Both groups were placed in a box where they received small electrical shocks. A few days later, they were placed back in the same box; the control group remembered the shocks and displayed fear, while the Alzheimer’s group did not recall the shocks or show signs of distress.

The scientists used a technique called optogenetics where they use a special blue light to stimulate genetically-modified memory cells in the brains of the mice. Upon doing so, the Alzheimer’s group showed signs of fear when placed back in the box–this time they recalled their experience with the shocks.

Optogenetics cannot be used in humans currently, but this study suggests that memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease may be reversible. To read the full article, visit the Cognitive Therapeutics Method blog at ”Newfound Hope that Alzheimer’s Memory Loss May Not Be Permanent”.

Could Syrup Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?

At the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting, researchers made a few important announcements regarding the benefits of pure maple syrup and its potential to fight Alzheimer’s disease.

Pure maple syrup is the sap that comes directly from the maple tree, not the processed, sugary kind we often find at the breakfast table. It is a natural compound that has been proven to have a myriad of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties. The following research adds to a growing body of work on pure sap.

The first announcement came from researchers at the Krembil Research Institute of the University of Toronto. They found that pure maple syrup helps prevent the clumping of two proteins, beta amyloid and tau, in the brain. The build-up and clumping of these two proteins is often a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Similarly, another group of researchers led by Dr. Navindra Seeram found that pure maple syrup extract helps prevent the clumping of beta amyloid in the brains of animals. This has the added benefit of protecting brain cells, which extends their lifespan.

Currently, 47.5 million people worldwide are affected by Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Research like this is critical to one day halting the progression of this disease. To read the full post from the Cognitive Therapeutics Method blog, visit Could This Sticky Treat Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?.

New Advancements in Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia currently affect 47.5 million people worldwide, which is why it is increasingly important to advance our understanding of the disease and its progression in order to find a cure.

For the first time, a research team from the University of California, Berkeley was able to track the whole progression of Alzheimer’s disease and the build up of the protein tau in cognitively normal adults, who are alive, by using PET scans. A positron emission tomography scan, or PET scan, is an imaging test that uses a radioactive material to trace a disease. The radioactive tracer is often injected intravenously and travels via the bloodstream to organs and tissues, making them more visible.

In the study, 53 adults were separated into three groups: five adults were between the ages of 20 and 26, 33 were cognitively healthy adults between the ages of 64 and 90, and 15 participants showed early signs of Alzheimer’s and were between the ages of 53 and 77.

Using the PET scans, researchers were able to establish the stages of tau build-up in the brain of all three groups of participants. The results mirrored the stages of tau deposition known as Braak staging, which was developed through autopsies and is used to classify the degree of pathology in Alzheimer’s disease. This study was the first of its kind to show evidence of staging in people who are alive, as well as in people who show no signs of cognitive impairment. The researchers hope this will promote PET scans as a diagnostic tool.

The build-up of tau is one of the hallmark signs of Alzheimer’s disease, along with accumulation of beta amyloid plaques. While build-up of beta amyloid plaques has been considered the main cause of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, research in the last decade has revealed that tau may also play a significant role. However, researchers are still unsure of how the two interact exactly.

The accumulation of the tau protein is a normal part of aging, to a certain extent. Consistent with Braak stages, researchers confirmed in this study that tau accumulated as an individual aged in the medial temporal lobe, an area of the brain that houses the hippocampus, or memory center. The study also found that higher levels of tau accumulation are associated with greater declines in memory and learning, and that when tau spreads to other brain regions, there are greater declines in global function.

The research is an important advancement in early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s; today, a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is only possible through post-mortem autopsy. Meanwhile, it is important to know that it’s never too early to make positive lifestyle changes to maintain a healthy brain, such as engaging in cognitively stimulating activities, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet. To keep up-to-date on the latest news in brain health research, sign up for the Cognitive Therapeutics monthly newsletter


Down Syndrome Research Broadens the Understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers are becoming increasingly interested in studying Down syndrome as a way to find treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s at an earlier age, which is why the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Institutes of Health and other researchers in the field of aging are focusing more efforts on Down syndrome research.

Currently, one of the greatest known risk factors for Alzheimer’s is advanced age. One in nine people aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s, while more than 75% of people with Down syndrome aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s. This staggering majority is why researchers hope that studying Alzheimer’s among people with Down syndrome will inform Alzheimer’s research, potentially helping millions of older adults who suffer from the disease.

Researchers believe that the extra copy of chromosome 21 could be the culprit behind the increased risk of Alzheimer’s for people with Down syndrome. Chromosome 21 contains a gene that is associated with the production of amyloid plaque, and the build-up of amyloid plaque is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

The warning signs of Alzheimer’s are similar between people with Down syndrome and the general population, although with Down syndrome, individuals may experience less-common signs as well, such as hoarding and seizures. In both populations with and without Down syndrome, the biological mechanisms driving Alzheimer’s is the same, so any breakthroughs would prove beneficial to everyone.

Some of the current initiatives include:

For more information on the latest research and news around brain health,


Targeting Inflammation in the Brain Could Halt Alzheimer’s Progression

Researchers from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom have found that targeting and reducing inflammation in the brain can reduce memory problems seen in Alzheimer’s disease. This research adds to growing evidence that suppressing inflammation in the brain may lead to preventing or delaying Alzheimer’s disease.

Inflammation in the brain is caused by a build-up of microglia cells, which are cells that provide the main form and first line of immune defense. The proliferation of microglia cells has also been found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, post-mortem, and is a key indicator of several neurocognitive disorders. Individuals with Alzheimer’s also had an increased regulation of the CSF1R gene that correlated with the severity of the disease.

In order to reduce this inflammation, the research team needed to block the production of microglia cells. To do so, they administered drugs that block the CSF1R receptor, which is responsible for the increase in microglia cells in the brain, to mice. Results showed that the mice given the CSF1R-blocking drug had fewer memory and behavioral problems. The drug also proved beneficial in preventing the loss of communication between nerve cells in the brain, a common symptom in individuals with Alzheimer’s.

senior woman holding her headDescribed as encouraging by the research community, these results prove that a CSF1R treatment could be a potential therapy option for treating Alzheimer’s disease. Further studies will be needed to verify the long-term effectiveness of the drug in humans.

In the meantime, the Cognitive Therapeutics Team encourages non-pharmacological approaches to promote an active and healthy brain-centered lifestyle. We encourage 15 to 20 minutes of physical activity per day, a balanced diet, social interaction and mental engagement to promote cognitive health and enhance quality of life!