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Issue 98 Alzheimer’s Insights by Curation Health 26 July 2016
 
 
News this week is dominated by action at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto, for which press departments across the health care and pharma industries have been sharpening their pencils for some weeks now. We will provide a fuller account next week when the smoke has cleared, but readers will note the huge impact of this world-leading conference in most of the stories featured in this week’s INSIGHTS.
 
 
Most read stories this week
 
Brain training may forestall dementia onset for years, new study says
Behavior changes offer clues that dementia could be brewing
Stressful job? It might help you fight off Alzheimer's
Why the latest Alzheimer's 'cure' might be too good to be true
Advice on taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s
 
Drugs & Clinical Trials
 
Alzheimer’s Association moves north of the border
 
The world’s largest association for Alzheimer’s disease is holding its annual conference over five very busy days this week, involving more than 90 sessions and almost 500 presentations. Reflecting the extent to which the Alzheimer’s agenda is going global – for research certainly, but also for best practice in care provision and training, greater community awareness, and the need for more focused funding in support of the world’s aging population – the AA has taken its show north of the border, pitching up in Toronto, Canada.


The move has triggered an explosion of stories in the world media, both online and offline, and the Curation Health content feeds have been busier over the last week – normally a slow time in these hot summer days – than at any time during the rest of the year. We will look back on the AAIC conference in next week’s issue of INSIGHTS but it is instructive to sample on this, the second day of the conference, the explosion of interest that greeted the opening of the conference when it opened yesterday. Reviewing the stories that emerged on the first day alone in just one content feed– Drugs & Clinical Trials – these represent a half-dozen among the highlights:
  • FierceBioTech describes how UK company Cytox is launching a genetic biomarker research tool designed to assess the risk of developing Alzheimer’s;
  • PharmaAsia is one of many websites promoting a call by several research specialists for better education of primary care physicians in the application of drugs to better manage cognition and executive function – i.e. symptoms – rather than focus on what can or cannot be done to develop a cure for the disease;
  • FierceBiotech pops up again with the announcement by Biotech company Alzheon that it is (so far) defying the odds as it moves into Phase 3 clinical trials of its drug ALZ-801 – and the story of how the drug has got this far is worth a read;
  • MedicalXpress describes how clinical advances in gene therapy for the treatment of nervous systems disorders are making particular progress as we begin to understand better how inflammation is involved with neurodegenerative disorders;
  • Outsourcing-pharma.com has a story reflecting the growing interest in corporate acquisitions as companies beef up their research capabilities, in this case with the acquisition of Compass Research by global giant Bioclinica, who specialise in the management of clinical trial services; and
  • MedicalXpress wraps up our selection with something of an oddity: a poster session at the conference describes the case of the first diagnosed case of Alzheimer’s in someone who is HIV-positive, reflecting our evolving awareness of the role of inflammation in the brain.
 
 
 
 
Clinical trial numbers double in three years
 
One of the more remarkable stories last week appeared on the website of Alzheimer’s Research UK, promoting a plea for volunteers to participate in dementia clinical trials. Increasing activity in the research world has seen the number of drug trials for Alzheimer’s treatment almost doubling over the last three years across the globe and, with 19 different drug studies now running in the UK alone, the National Institute for Health Research is making a concerted effort to enlist people to “Join Dementia Research”.
 
Drugs & Clinical Trials
 
Medical Information
 
Jury is still out on Alzheimer’s vaccine
 
 
A collaboration between American and Australian researchers regarding a possible vaccine for Alzheimer’s has encouraged a lot of media attention over recent weeks – most recently with this story on Asian Scientist, and with a lot of chatter coming out of this week’s Alzheimer’s conference in Toronto. Since the story was noted two weeks ago in INSIGHTS 96, however, there has been time for some gentle pushback from research specialists in neuro-inflammation. While not wanting to discourage any hope that progress is indeed being made in this area, features like this one in the Independent suggest that everyone might take a deep breath. Previous research into the relationship between brain proteins and immunisation have been inconclusive at best, and what might seem to work well in mice models is still some way from showing efficacy in humans.
 
 
 
 
Anti-biotics may have a role in controlling protein plaque
 
 
Echoing aspects of the vaccine story above, research out of the University of Chicago suggests that antibiotic drugs may prove effective in reducing the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, so controlling the progression of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. A story on MedicalNewsToday reflects growing interest in the relationship between gut health and brain health, while stressing (as again with the vaccine story above!) the early stage at which research is advancing into inflammation and response of the body’s immune system. What the story does not mention, but might have done, is the growing disquiet over the declining potency of anti-biotics in general, and the fear that their overuse could lead to new strains of anti-biotic-resistant germs which would render this line of Alzheimer’s research a less than reliable longer-term bet.

 
Latest Alzheimer's Medical Info
 
Lifestyle Issues
 

Workplace stress is not necessarily bad news
 
 
One of the more popular stories of the week relates to two separate studies, out of Wisconsin and Toronto, showing that workplace stress is not bad in itself, but depends upon the degree of social engagement that the work offers, as well as what sort of job it is. A feature in The Telegraph gave one of the better accounts of the research, explaining that jobs involving more complicated mental work and higher levels of interaction with other people provide the best resistance to debilitating stress and cognitive decline. The Toronto study went so far as to suggest that mental stimulation was so important that it could actually make a measurable difference in research participants who were subjected to the perils of a fatty Western diet.
 
 
 
 
New research boosts brain training
 
Despite some recent and serious pushback from the neuroscience community, it appears from research published in time for the AAIC event in Toronto that brain training may after all forestall the onset of dementia. One of the more detailed treatments of this story appeared in the Los Angeles Times, recounting how the groups undergoing some form of brain training showed lower rates of cognitive decline than did the control group and, where decline did occur, it occurred later.

 
Alzheimer's Lifestyle Issues
 
Medical Devices
 
Brain scanning breakthrough could be big
 
It may be early days, as this article in BusinessInsider stresses, but new research at Yale University suggests a way of spotting and measuring the early signs of a spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s. In a study published originally in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the research team explained how they were able to circulate a radioactive tracer in the brain that, when picked up on PET scanners, could measure variations over time in the density of those parts of the brain that facilitate communications within and across the brain.
 
 
 
 
Pokémon Go linked with neurological risk
 
 
Or, more precisely, the new sensation from Nintendo is scarcely out of the box and headline writers in publications like the New York Observer are asking: “What is Pokémon Go doing to your brain?” Read the article and it is pretty clear pretty quickly that the “neurological risks” that the headline writer identifies with “focusing on your phones while walking through with public spaces” are not specifically linked to this particular application.

The greater danger is in getting your head mashed if you step out into traffic while trying to capture Squirtle. Sure, there are general concerns about the effects of too much screen-based technology on our mental processes, and evidence that the brain’s hippocampus can shrink where too much wayfinding is being ceded by human memory to satellite navigation software. But picking on Pokémon Go just because it’s the techno-flavour of the month is a bit harsh. At least the game gets people up and about, which is more that can be said for Minecraft.
 
Medical Devices & Alzheimer's
 
Care Advice
 
Caring for parents: four top tips
 
With nearly 16 million family members and friends serving as caregivers for the growing numbers of North Americans living with some form of dementia, The Washington Post recognised the growing phenomenon of parent-child role reversals in promoting a new book by Loretta Veney: “Being My Mom’s Mom”. One feature in particular looked at four tips for people “taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s”. These thoughts stand out among the wealth of such articles we see coming through the Curation Health feeds, as they address specifically the challenges of care that are most often pertinent to family members who might otherwise be slower to recognise what needs doing.


In summary, these tips include 1) pay attention to the warning signs; 2) don’t wait to take financial control; 3) find the right doctor; and 4) keep making memories. This last tip in particular bears reading as it exists for both the mother’s and the daughter’s sake, not least for providing a continuing record of engagement with life in the present moment.
 
 
 
 
A solution for caregivers “at the end of their rope”
 
A particular subset of the community of family caregivers comprises those sons and daughters who feel the growing need to support their parents as their dementia progresses, but whose distance apart limits what they can usefully do to help. What begins as a vague discomfort intensifies as the dementia worsens, especially where the parent’s needs are not so much as to require their going into a care home, or in any case where the family cannot afford it. The children, pressured with their immediate family needs and career pressures, describe feeling that they are “at the end of their rope”.

Award-winning author and professional caregiver Marie Marley writes a sensitive piece in The Huffington Post, describing a service that has spread across the USA, promoted by the Aging Life Care Association. More informal variations on this service exist in some other countries, but nothing quite so well organised: in effect, the family engages a professional, accredited person who serves as a combination health care advocate, life coach, professional errand manager, and family liaison specialist, serving as a reliable go-between in the middle of the triangle made up of the person being cared for, their wider community, and the extended family.

 
Alzheimer's Care Advice
 
 
 
 
And Finally…
 
Activism rules! This week’s story on the UK initiative to engage a wider community in dementia research included a link to a two-minute YouTube video that explains what the project involves. Watch it here, and get “involved with something special”. There are several subjects of research and participants can be of any age and indeed can be in perfect health. The common ground is involving the whole community, so give it a look.
 
 
 
 
More Alzheimer’s Disease Feeds on CurationHealth
Depression, Stress & Coping with Alzheimer’s
 
Alzheimer’s Care Advice
 
Alzheimer’s Lifestyle Issues
 
Latest Alzheimer’s Medical Info
 
Drugs & Clinical Trials
 
Medical Devices & Alzheimer’s
 
 
 
 
Tweets of the week twitter logo
 
IMAGE  
Mayo Clinic (@MayoClinic)
 
Research finds complex jobs and social ties appear to help ward off #Alzheimers bit.ly/2a6Cu3y via @washingtonpost #AAIC16
 
IMAGE  
LundbeckUS (@LundbeckUS)
 
The number of #Alzheimers patients will rise dramatically, heightening the need for effective therapies. #AAIC2016 https://t.co/dyK70tQqo7
 
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Ian Kremer (@LEAD_Coalition)
 
Whether living w/#dementia or #caregiving, take time to reflect, seek support. #Alzheimers (image via @raehanbobby) https://t.co/a4VTOg8yzt
 
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Alzheimers Support (@SandyAlz)
 
Caring for Someone with Cognitive Decline - Alzheimers Support bit.ly/1PRbCjG https://t.co/sIzmZ7FQHi
 
IMAGE  
Hollie Bradley (@HISCNewportNews)
 
NW Indiana students to have Alzheimer’s experiment sent to space via @ABC7Chicago #Alzheimers ow.ly/Wes13023ip1
 
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About Alzheimer’s Insights
 
Alzheimer’s Insights is an online newsletter created for consumers -- primarily patients and carers -- who live with the challenge of Alzheimer’s disease. Based upon intelligent search algorithms that scour the Internet for the most read, relevant and useful stories from around the world, it is curated and published each Tuesday by a team of health and publishing experts.
 
Tam McDonald  
Tam McDonald Senior Curator
 
Tam is a communications professional with three decades of experience in health, hospitality, and financial services publishing. His interest in the human brain goes back to his studies in philosophy at university. His commitment to securing the best information about health matters goes back to his decade as a carer. In addition to his work with Alzheimer’s, Tam is engaged in online publishing projects relating to health innovation and investment, human and artificial intelligence, and diabetes.
 
 
 
Explain This!
 
A few months ago there was a story that Brain Training made no difference; research this week suggests that it does. We get stories that this or that food helps the brain stay healthy; then comes news that it makes little difference. First you can catch Alzheimer’s; then you can’t. How can people keep up with all the conflicting advice?
 
Click here to find out
 
Looking ahead…
 
Issue 99 2 August 2016
 
We will look back at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, concluding this week in Toronto. What were the highlights? What are the chief hopes for the year ahead?
 
 
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