Alzheimer’s experts disagree on theories underlying drug treatments.

APA Headlines

August 1, 2008

Alzheimer’s experts disagree on theories underlying drug treatments.

The Economist (7/31) reported that experts on Alzheimer’s “disagree fundamentally about what drugs aimed at treating” the disease “should be trying to do.” The dominant “school of thought…argues that the disease wreaks its damage by causing the formation of the plaques” made up of “sticky bits of a wayward protein called beta-amyloid that gum up the spaces between nerve cells. A rival camp, however, points to the conversion of another protein, tau, into tangles that form inside nerve cells, and suggests this is the real cause of dementia.” Lately, three therapies based on the beta-amyloid theory have failed. “In contrast, the tau camp is rising.” Researchers from Scotland’s University of Aberdeen “describ[ed] the early success of a drug called methylthioninium chloride (MTC) in inhibiting the progression of Alzheimer’s.” Still, “beta boosters remain unbowed,” as drugmakers Lilly, Elan, and Wyeth continue to conduct early- and late-stage trials. But, “[i]n the end, both approaches may be needed. … As with AIDS, Alzheimer’s may…require a cocktail of drugs that do different things if it is to be tackled successfully.”

        Researchers say hypnosis may slow down impact of dementia. The UPI (8/1) reports that researchers from the U.K.’s University of Liverpool “say hypnosis can slow down the impact of dementia, and improve quality of life for those living with the condition.” The team “found that people living with dementia who had received hypnosis therapy showed an improvement in concentration, memory, and socialization.”

        Small fMRI study indicates APOE4 carriers may have neurological changes long before clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear. PsychCentral (7/31, Nauert) reported that “children of Alzheimer’s patients who are carriers of a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease” may “have neurological changes that are detectable long before clinical symptoms may appear,” according to a study presented on July 29 at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, Shi Jiang Li, Ph.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin, and colleagues, examined “28 neurologically-normal subjects, between ages 45 and 65. Twelve carried the APOE-4 gene, and 16 did not.” Participants in both “groups showed no significant difference in age, educational level, or neuropsychological performances.” The researchers found that “functional connectivity” between “the hippocampus and the posterior cingulated cortex, two important brain structures for memory processing,” was “approximately 65 percent better” in people who did not carry the APOE-4 gene.

        Men who ruminate may be less likely to develop dementia, researchers say. In continuing coverage from yesterday’s edition of Headlines, the CBS Evening News (7/31, story 10, 0:25, Couric) reported that “a little workout for your brain may be doing it some good. A new study says men who spend a lot of time over-thinking things cut their risk of dementia by as much as 40 percent.”