New discoveries from our Center.
The eyes of people with AD have similar changes in proteins as do the brains of people with AD
Dr. Carol Miller and her colleagues studied donated retinas (the inner surface of the eye) from deceased patients with Alzheimer disease. The retinas showed changes in protein similar to those are seen in the brains of patients with Alzheimer disease. Their finding suggests that there might be a new way to diagnose Alzheimer disease by examining the eyes of living patients. The research was made possible by brains that were donated to research at USC’s Memory and Aging Center.
Can female and male hormones protect against Alzheimer disease?
With brains donated to research at USC’s Memory and Aging Center, Dr. Christian Pike has shown how estrogen in women and androgen in men may protect against the development of Alzheimer changes. The results are directly relevant to treatment and prevention; animal studies and clinical trials are currently underway to test new compounds for treating Alzheimer disease.
B vitamins and lowering homocysteine in blood do not improve Alzheimer disease
The results of a national, multicenter clinical trial showed that people with mild to moderate AD did not benefit from taking higher doses of B vitamins. If was thought that either B vitamins alone or their effect on blood homocysteine, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, might improve symptoms in people with mild to moderate AD.
Unfortunately, people with AD do not benefit from taking high doses of B vitamins.
Patients at the USC’s Memory and Aging Center contributed to this study published in JAMA, and Dr. Lon Schneider is one of the study’s co-authors.
Caloric restriction and AD
Overly rich diets leading to obesity may be a risk factor for Alzheimer disease as well as stroke. Dr. Caleb Finch and collaborators showed that reduced food intake also slowed Alzheimer changes in mice carrying Alzheimer genes. The equivalent of missing lunch for 30 years decreased the Alzheimer changes by 35%.
Decreasing risk factors for heart disease may lessen the risk for dementia
Dr. Margaret Gatz and her colleagues have joined the national effort to raise awareness among African Americans who are at risk for higher rates of dementia. They evaluated the effectiveness of an educational program targeting knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to risk factors for Alzheimer disease among African-American community members. The biggest emphasis was on the relationship between risk factors for heart disease and stroke and risk factors for dementia. Questionnaires were given before and after the educational program. After the program, community members were more knowledgeable about dementia risk factors and had a greater interest in changing their own behaviors that could reduce both risk of dementia and risk of heart disease and stroke.
Brain changes are evident in middle age
Alzheimer disease is sometimes described as aging gone from bad to worse. Using brains donated from participants in USC’s Memory and Aging Center, Dr. Caleb Finch showed loss of nerve synapses in even healthy middle-aged people. The synapse loss may be why mental speed and ability to do multi-tasking slows during middle age. But unlike Alzheimer brains, the nerve cells are still there.Read the original research article