Wednesday January 29, 2020

Smartphone Game can Help Detect Alzheimer’s Risk

The team studied gaming data taken from 27,108 UK players, aged 50-75 years and the most vulnerable age-group to develop Alzheimer’s in the next decade. They compared this benchmark data with a smaller lab-based group of 60 people who underwent genetic testing

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

A specially designed smartphone game can detect people at the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, say researchers.

The game called Sea Hero Quest, downloaded and played by over 4.3 million people worldwide, helped researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) better understand dementia by seeing how the brain works in relation to spatial navigation.

The game has been developed by Deutsche Telekom in partnership with Alzheimer’s Research UK, University College London (UCL) and the University of East Anglia.

“Dementia will affect 135 million people worldwide by 2050. We need to identify people to reduce their risk of developing dementia,” said Lead researcher Professor Michael Hornberger from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

As players made their way through mazes of islands and icebergs, the research team translated every 0.5 seconds of gameplay into scientific data. The team studied how people who are genetically pre-disposed to Alzheimer’s play the game compared with those who are not.

A lady suffering from Alzheimer’s. Flickr

The results, published in the journal PNAS, showed people genetically at risk of developing Alzheimer’s can be distinguished from those who are not on specific levels of the Sea Hero Quest game.

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The findings are particularly important because a standard memory and thinking test cannot distinguish between the risk and non-risk groups. “Our findings show we can reliably detect such subtle navigation changes in at-genetic-risk of Alzheimer’s compared with healthy people without any symptoms or complaints,” said Hornberger.

The team studied gaming data taken from 27,108 UK players, aged 50-75 years and the most vulnerable age-group to develop Alzheimer’s in the next decade. They compared this benchmark data with a smaller lab-based group of 60 people who underwent genetic testing. (IANS)

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This Protein in the Human Brain Can Protect Against Alzheimer’s disease

Brain protein that could protect against Alzheimer's disease

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Human Brain
Immune cells in the brain, called microglia, play a critical role in Alzheimer's disease. Pixabay

Researchers have found that a protein that regulates white blood cells in the human brain could protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

The results published in the journal Communications Biology suggest that this protein, called CD33, could have important implications in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

“Immune cells in the brain, called microglia, play a critical role in Alzheimer’s disease,” explained study co-author Matthew Macauley, Assistant Professor at University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

“They can be harmful or protective. Swaying microglia from a harmful to protective state could be the key to treating the disease,” Macauley added.

Scientists have identified the CD33 protein as a factor that may decrease a person’s likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain
CD33 protein in the brain plays a crucial role in modulating the function of microglia. Pixabay

Now, Macauley’s research has shown that the most common type of CD33 protein plays a crucial role in modulating the function of microglia.

“The fact that CD33 is found on microglia suggests that immune cells can protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease under the right circumstances,” said Abhishek Bhattacherjee, first author and postdoctoral fellow in the Macauley lab.

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 44 million people around the world.

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“These findings set the stage for future testing of a causal relationship between CD33 and Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as testing therapeutic strategies to sway microglia from harmful to protecting against the disease – by targeting CD33,” said Macauley.

“Microglia have the potential to ‘clean up’ the neurodegenerative plaques, through a process called phagocytosis — so a therapy to harness this ability to slow down or reverse Alzheimer’s disease can be envisioned,” Macauley said. (IANS)