Subtle cognitive decline precedes end to driving for older adults (Links to an external site)

Even slight cognitive changes can affect an older person’s decision to stop driving, according to a new study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The findings suggest that routine cognitive testing — in particular, the kind of screening designed to pick up the earliest, most subtle decline — could help older adults and their physicians make decisions about driving that maximizes safety while preserving independence as long as possible.

Alzheimer’s disease progresses faster in people with Down syndrome (Links to an external site)

Nearly all adults with Down syndrome will develop evidence of Alzheimer’s disease by late middle age. A new study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that the disease both starts earlier and moves faster in people with Down syndrome, a finding that may have important implications for the treatment and care of this vulnerable group of patients.

Moment of promise (Links to an external site)

Washington University is known the world over for being a leader in neuroscience research. And the university underscored its commitment to the neurosciences by building an 11-story hub on the Medical Campus that enables researchers to work more collaboratively and creatively. The goal: to accelerate the translation of science into treatments to help those living with neurodegenerative diseases.

Alzheimer’s blood test performs as well as FDA-approved spinal fluid tests (Links to an external site)

Scientists report a major step toward a simple blood test for Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Lund University in Sweden showed that a blood test is as good at identifying people in early stages of the disease as cerebrospinal fluid tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The findings indicate that a blood test soon may replace more expensive and invasive brain scans and spinal taps for detecting signs of Alzheimer’s in the brain.

Blood tests can help diagnose Alzheimer’s — if they’re accurate enough. Not all are (Links to an external site)

A new generation of blood tests is poised to change the way doctors determine whether patients with memory loss also have Alzheimer’s disease.

The tests detect substances in the blood that indicate the presence of sticky amyloid plaques in the brain — a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. So these tests have the potential to replace current diagnostic procedures, like costly PET scans and uncomfortable spinal taps.

Smoking causes brain shrinkage (Links to an external site)

Smoking shrinks the brain and effectively causes premature brain aging, according to a study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Quitting smoking prevents further loss of brain tissue but doesn’t restore the brain to its original size.

Clues to preventing Alzheimer’s come from patient who, despite genetics, evaded disease (Links to an external site)

Alzheimer’s disease has plagued one large Colombian family for generations, striking down half of its members in the prime of life. But one member of that family evaded what had seemed would be fate: Despite inheriting the genetic defect that caused her relatives to develop dementia in their 40s, she stayed cognitively healthy into her 70s.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis now think they know why. A previous study had reported that, unlike her relatives, the woman carried two copies of a rare variant of the APOE gene known as the Christchurch mutation. In this study, researchers used genetically modified mice to show that the Christchurch mutation severs the link between the early phase of Alzheimer’s disease, when a protein called amyloid beta builds up in the brain, and the late phase, when another protein called tau accumulates and cognitive decline sets in. So the woman stayed mentally sharp for decades, even as her brain filled with massive amounts of amyloid. The findings, published Dec. 11 in the journal Cell, suggest a new approach to preventing Alzheimer’s dementia.

Living with Alzheimer Disease and Other Types of Dementia: Stories from Caregivers (Links to an external site)

People with Alzheimer Disease or other types of dementia often face years of memory and thinking problems that eventually require help from others to assist with daily activities. An estimated 83% of people caring for older adults in the US are family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers. People providing care may have emotional and physical stress, or financial burdens, especially when caring for someone in the later stages of the disease. In this collection of narratives, authors write about the challenges, struggles, and joys of providing care for family members or another close person with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Doubts abound about a new Alzheimer’s blood test (Links to an external site)

…Alzheimer’s researchers and clinicians aren’t convinced the Quest test is backed by sound scientific research. The possibility of false-positive results is high, as is the likelihood that older adults won’t understand the significance of their results, they say. The test should be taken only under a physician’s supervision, if at all, they advise. And, priced originally at $399 (recently discounted to $299) and not covered by insurance, it isn’t cheap.

How do toxic proteins accumulate in Alzheimer’s and other diseases? (Links to an external site)

In search of ways to prevent these destructive tau tangles, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a key step in their development. Intervening at this step potentially could forestall the destructive cascade of events that results in brain damage, the researchers said. The findings are published Sept. 20 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Study defines disparities in memory care (Links to an external site)

Patients who live in less affluent neighborhoods and those from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups are less likely than others to receive specialized care for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates. Further, the research shows that Black people are more likely than white people to be diagnosed with dementia at a later, more advanced stage, which could contribute to inequities in access to new treatments.

Tau-based biomarker tracks Alzheimer’s progression (Links to an external site)

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Lund University in Lund, Sweden, have identified a form of tau that could serve as a marker to track Alzheimer’s progression. The marker also could be used by Alzheimer’s drug developers to assess whether investigational tau-based drugs – the next frontier in Alzheimer’s drug development – are effective against the disease. Such drugs theoretically would benefit people in later stages of the disease, when tau tangles play a crucial role.

When Gut Bacteria May Be an Early Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease (Links to an external site)

In a new study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis report on another possible factor: the types of bacteria living in the gut. Experiencing changes in gut bacteria populations may be an early marker for developing the disease, the scientists found. These differences can often begin years before the first symptoms of cognitive decline, such as memory loss and confusion, appear.

Stress increases Alzheimer’s risk in female mice but not males (Links to an external site)

A study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that the effect stress has on the brain differs by sex, at least in mice. In stressful situations, levels of the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid beta rises sharply in the brains of females but not males. In addition, the researchers identified a molecular pathway that is active in brain cells from female mice but not male mice, and showed that it accounts for the divergent responses to stress.

Sleeping pill reduces levels of Alzheimer’s proteins (Links to an external site)

A small, two-night study has shown that people who took a sleeping pill before bed experienced a drop in the levels of key Alzheimer’s proteins — a good sign, since higher levels of such proteins tracks with worsening disease. The study, which involved a sleeping aid known as suvorexant that is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for insomnia, hints at the potential of sleep medications to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, although much more work is needed to confirm the viability of such an approach.

Brain-twisted or brain-washed — can crossword puzzles and word games sharpen memory? (Links to an external site)

“Doing puzzles, in and of itself, will only improve how you do the puzzles,” said Dr. Beau Ances, a Washington University professor who specializes in neurodegenerative disease. “I am not sure it improves long-term cognition.”

Ances said he has patients who love the puzzles and he absolutely encourages them to keep at it; having a daily ritual you look forward to is beneficial in many ways. Galvan, for instance, told me it’s good for his self-esteem when he conquers a puzzle.

Discovery of T cells’ role in Alzheimer’s, related diseases, suggests new treatment strategy (Links to an external site)

In Alzheimer’s and related neurodegenerative diseases, the brain protein tau is closely linked to brain damage and cognitive decline. A new study from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates that T cells play a key role in tau-related neurodegeneration, a finding that suggests new treatment strategies for Alzheimer’s and related diseases.

Gut bacteria affect brain health, mouse study shows (Links to an external site)

Gut bacteria can influence brain health, according to a study of mice genetically predisposed to develop Alzheimer’s-like brain damage. The study, by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, indicates that gut bacteria produce compounds that influence the behavior of immune cells, including ones in the brain that can cause neurodegeneration. The findings suggest a new approach to treating Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Roche Alzheimer’s antibody fails to slow cognitive decline in major test (Links to an external site)

Biogen Inc. and Eisai Co. caused a stir in September when they announced positive results in a late-stage trial for a closely watched Alzheimer’s drug, lecanemab. Doctors tempered their excitement, though, until they could scrutinize the full peer-reviewed data.

That data arrived Tuesday night. And while it is stoking enthusiasm that physicians might soon be able to offer patients a treatment that can slow the progression of the devastating disease, doctors need to carefully balance that optimism with safety concerns and the reality that the drug is far from a cure — and in fact, it’s hard to quantify how meaningful it might be for a given patient.

Study yields clues to why Alzheimer’s disease damages certain parts of the brain (Links to an external site)

A study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis yields clues to why certain parts of the brain are particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s damage. It comes down to the gene APOE, the greatest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. The parts of the brain where APOE is most active are the areas that sustain the most damage, they found.

Roche Alzheimer’s antibody fails to slow cognitive decline in major test (Links to an external site)

The second (and third) time was not the charm for Roche’s experimental antibody drug for Alzheimer’s disease. The company last night announced gantenerumab had failed to show a statistically significant benefit in two large, late-stage clinical trials that tested its ability to slow patients’ cognitive decline—echoing a previous failure in another so-called phase 3 trial.

The Issues: Alzheimer’s and Dementia (Links to an external site)

On this episode of The Issues, host Sarah Bernard and her guests (including Dr. Suzanne E. Schindler) speak about Alzheimer’s, dementia, how to care for loved ones with the disease, how to help prevent and delay Alzheimer’s, and new tests for and research about the disease.

Rejuvenated immune cells can improve clearance of toxic waste from brain (Links to an external site)

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found an innovative way to improve waste clearance from the brain, and thereby possibly treat or even prevent neurodegenerative conditions. They showed that immune cells surrounding the brain influence how efficiently waste is swept out of the brain, and that such immune cells are impaired in old mice, and in people and mice with Alzheimer’s disease. Further, they found that treating old mice with an immune-stimulating compound rejuvenates immune cells and improves waste clearance from the brain.