Every year there are incredible scientific breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Here are 5 of the most recent and significant Alzheimer’s breakthroughs that help prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.
Alzheimer’s Breakthrough in Prevention: Irisin and Exercise to Reduce Risk of Disease
A study done by Fernanda De Felice, a researcher from Queen’s University, has pointed out that irisin—a hormone produced by muscles through exercising—is linked to treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s.
At the beginning of the research, De Felice and her coworkers detected a lower level of irisin in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The research then moved to experiments in mice by having mice swim in a small pool five times a week for five weeks to test the effects of irisin increase on the brain. The experiments proved fruitful: when treated with irisin, mice with Alzheimer’s disease showed improved memory and decreased cognitive impairment. When irisin was blocked in mice, their memory performance didn’t improve even when they exercised.
This discovery is a significant contribution to potential drug treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, as well as a means of preventing Alzheimer’s for those capable of regular physical activity.
Alzheimer’s Breakthrough in Prevention & Treatment: How Carrots & Green Tea Can Help
A study from researchers at the University of Southern California has pointed out that a diet containing compounds found in green tea and carrots have reversed Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in mice with the disease. This could be due to the substances’ ability to prevent amyloid precursor proteins from breaking up into amyloid-beta, a toxic protein involved with Alzheimer’s disease.
The compounds researched in this study were epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a key ingredient in green tea, and ferulic acid (FA), often found in carrots, tomatoes, rice, wheat and oats. Thirty-two mice with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms were randomly assigned to four groups with an equal number of males and females. Each group also included an equal number of healthy mice. Over three months, the mice consumed a combination of EGCG and FA, or EGCG or FA only, or a placebo, each at 30 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
Before and after the diet, scientists ran the mice through a set of tests that are roughly similar to the thinking and memory tests used to assess dementia in humans. One test includes having the mice looking for the way out in a Y-shaped maze to test their spatial working memory. Mice with Alzheimer’s disease can’t explore the Y maze as well as their healthy counterparts. However, after the diet, the treatment completely restored spatial working memory in impaired mice and they performed just as well as the healthy ones.
Although the study was done in mice only, the findings support the idea that certain plant-based diets might protect humans from developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Breakthrough in Diagnosis: AI to Help Predicting Alzheimer’s Disease
Jae Ho Sohn, a resident in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at University of California San Francisco, has been doing research to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Sohn applied a machine learning algorithm to Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans, which are often used to measure the levels of specific molecules in the brain in order to detect whether a person would develop Alzheimer’s or not.
Sohn sent the algorithm a set of 1,921 PET scans from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) so that the algorithm could learn which features are important to predict the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Following that, the algorithm was tested on two datasets: the algorithm correctly identified 92% of patients who developed Alzheimer’s disease in the first set and 98% in the second set.
The next step for Sohn’s research is to test the algorithm on larger and more diverse datasets from different hospitals and countries. If successfully passing these tests, the algorithm could be employed and would be a great help to get Alzheimer’s patients their treatments sooner.
Alzheimer’s Breakthrough in Treatment: Drinkable Compound of Drug Molecules
Earlier this year, researchers from Yale University reported that a drinkable compound of molecules interfered with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and even restored memories in mice. Particularly, the compound interfered with the binding of prion protein and amyloid-beta, which together can cause an accumulation of plaques, a destructive immune system response, and damage to synapses.
After dissolving the optimized polymeric compound and feeding it to mice with Alzheimer’s, researchers found that synapses in mice’s brains were repaired and the mice had recovered their lost memory.
If the compound is verified to be non-toxic, it could be prepared for translation to clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s Breakthrough in Treatment: Sunnybrook Hospital Clinical Trial in Toronto
The beginning of February 2019 marks the start of a new phase of a clinical trial in Toronto that hopefully will aid the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
The clinical trial is done using a technique called focused ultrasound. The technique was developed at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and is used to open the blood-brain barrier in specific areas of the brain for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
The blood-brain barrier protects the blood vessels in the brain from harmful substances in the bloodstream, but at the same time it can be an obstacle preventing drugs, antibodies and stem cells to reach the brain tissue. By safely opening the blood-brain barrier in specific areas of the brain, the researchers hope that drugs could eventually be delivered directly to brain regions that amyloid and tau—the two main toxic proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease—tend to accumulate.
In the current phase of the study, researchers have yet to deliver any drugs or antibodies through the barrier. Instead, they are building on the first phase of their trial to confirm the safety and efficacy of the technique.