Tuesday June 18, 2019

It is Now Possible to Reverse Memory Loss Caused by Alzheimer’s, Says Study

Future studies will focus on developing compounds that penetrate the brain more effectively and are thus longer-lasting, the researchers said

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In Alzheimer's disease, patients start losing memory. Pixabay

Researchers have developed a novel approach that may one day make it possible to reverse memory loss, caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

The team, led by University at Buffalo scientists, found that by focusing on gene changes caused by influences other than DNA sequences — called epigenetics — it was possible to reverse memory decline in an animal model of Alzheimer’s.

“We have not only identified the epigenetic factors that contribute to the memory loss, but we also found ways to temporarily reverse them in an animal model of Alzheimer’s,” said Zhen Yan, Professor at University at Buffalo in the US.

The research, published in the journal Brain, was conducted on mouse models carrying gene mutations for familial Alzheimer’s — where more than one member of a family has the disease — and on post-mortem brain tissues from Alzheimer’s patients.

alzheimer's, cholesterol
Poor sleep can predict Alzheimer’s Risk in elderly. Pixabay

Alzheimer’s is caused from both genetic and environmental risk factors, such as ageing, which combine to result in epigenetic changes, leading to gene expression changes, but little is known about how that occurs.

The epigenetic changes in Alzheimer’s happen primarily in the later stages, when patients are unable to retain recently learned information and exhibit the most dramatic cognitive decline, Yan said.

A key reason for the cognitive decline is the loss of glutamate receptors, which are critical to learning and short-term memory.

The researchers found that the loss of glutamate receptors is the result of an epigenetic process known as repressive histone modification, which is elevated in Alzheimer’s.

“Our study not only reveals the correlation between epigenetic changes and Alzheimer’s, we also found we can correct the cognitive dysfunction by targeting the epigenetic enzymes to restore glutamate receptors,” Yan said.

A lady suffering from Alzheimer’s. Flickr

The Alzheimer’s animals were injected three times with compounds designed to inhibit the enzyme that controls repressive histone modification.

In animals who received the enzyme inhibitor the cognitive function restored and was confirmed through evaluations of recognition memory, spatial memory and working memory.

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The improvements lasted for one week. Future studies will focus on developing compounds that penetrate the brain more effectively and are thus longer-lasting, the researchers said. (IANS)

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Virtual Reality Can Identify Early Alzheimer’s More Accurately

The researchers are now working towards developing apps for detecting the disease and monitoring its progression

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In Alzheimer's disease, patients start losing memory. Pixabay

Virtual reality (VR) technology can identify early Alzheimer’s disease more accurately than ‘gold standard’ cognitive tests currently in use, says a study.

The findings, published in the journal Brain, highlight the potential of new technologies to help diagnose and monitor conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“These results suggest a VR test of navigation may be better at identifying early Alzheimer’s disease than tests we use at present in clinic and in research studies,” said study lead author Dennis Chan, Professor at the University of Cambridge in Britain.

The researchers developed and trialled a VR navigation test in patients at risk of developing dementia.

For the study, the research team recruited 45 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Patients with MCI typically exhibit memory impairment.

They took samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to look for biomarkers of underlying Alzheimer’s disease in their MCI patients, with 12 testing positive. The researchers also recruited 41 healthy controls for comparison.

A lady suffering from Alzheimer’s. Flickr

All of the patients with MCI performed worse on the navigation task than the healthy controls. However, the study yielded two crucial additional observations.

First, MCI patients with positive CSF markers — indicating the presence of Alzheimer’s disease, thus placing them at risk of developing dementia — performed worse than those with negative CSF markers at low risk of future dementia.

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Secondly, the VR navigation task was better at differentiating between these low and high risk patients with mild cognitive impairment than a battery of currently-used tests considered to be gold standard for the diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s, the study said.

The researchers are now working towards developing apps for detecting the disease and monitoring its progression.

“We live in a world where mobile devices are almost ubiquitous, and so app-based approaches have the potential to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at minimal extra cost and at a scale way beyond that of brain scanning and other current diagnostic approaches,” Chan said. (IANS)