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Jalal Shamsazaran’s father was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease more than five years ago. “I found out that it’s inherited in our family,” the Iranian photographer said. “My grandfather had Alzheimer’s, my father had Alzheimer’s, and my aunt also has Alzheimer’s.” So when Shamsazaran decided to photograph his father’s struggles with the degenerative disease, he did it with the expectation that he might be documenting the changes in behavior and personality that he may, one day, experience himself. “Maybe it can be said that I am somehow photographing myself,” he said.
Shamsazaran’s images, which chronicled the last years of his father’s life before his death in early 2020, have been selected as this year’s recipient of the Bob and Diane Fund, a grant designed to promote work “that increases the understanding of the disease and inspires research to end it,” said Gina Martin, the fund’s creator.
“Jalal captures his father’s decline into dementia until his death with such tenderness and respect,” she added. “His beautiful black-and-white images with his distinct style and voice shows the power of visual storytelling.”
For Shamsazaran, the grant is another opportunity to raise awareness about the disease, which affects more than 50 million people in the world, and 750,000 in Iran alone. “Any father with Alzheimer’s can be my father, and I am the child of all of them,” Shamsazaran said.
Jan. 17, 2020: “The slim hands of my father rest on blanket as he sleeps. These hands are part of our country’s history to me and they make me to remember the hardships he went through for his family.” (Jalal Shamsazaran/NVPImages)
(Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, citing conflict of interest, has recused a member of an 11-person advisory committee set to review Biogen Inc’s experimental Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab on Friday.
Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. David Knopman confirmed on Monday that he was recused from the scheduled meeting of outside advisors to the FDA. Expert advisory panels often play an important role ahead of FDA approval decisions, although the agency is not required to take their advice.
Knopman, who said he was recused because of his involvement in conducting clinical trials of aducanumab, has been a vocal critic of the drug, including in a paper published on Sunday in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.
“Aducanumab’s efficacy as a treatment for the cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease cannot be proven by clinical trials with divergent outcomes,” he wrote.
The FDA, which is slated to decide by early March whether to approve aducanumab, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If approved, aducanumab would be the first drug to treat an underlying cause of the fatal, mind-wasting disease, a field that has for decades produced nothing but failure. By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s dementia is projected to reach 7.1 million in the United States alone, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Biogen has said aducanumab, an antibody designed to remove harmful plaques from the brain, was shown in one of two major studies to significantly slow cognitive and functional decline. A second trial, however, showed a benefit only for a subset of patients who were given a high dose for at least 10 months.
Biogen abruptly ended a pivotal trial of aducanumab last year after an early look at results suggested it did not provide a desired benefit. Months later, the biotech company shocked many by reversing course, saying it had decided to seek FDA approval after all.
Shares of Biogen were down about 0.5% at $250.78.
(Reporting By Deena Beasley; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
Bart Bartholomew noticed the changes in his wife soon after the coronavirus pandemic began.
One day, Dot, who was diagnosed with dementia more than a decade ago, stopped responding to his jokes.
“She knew it was me, but she just looked at me real strange,” Bart, 72, recalled. “No more smiles. No more bright eyes.”
He had cared for Dot, 72, at home for years after her diagnosis, believing that each day was a blessing after she survived longer than doctors predicted. But by late 2019, Dot needed more medical care, and so, Bart moved her first into an assisted-living facility, then a skilled-nursing home in Loveland.
The pandemic arrived in the middle of those moves, and soon he was no longer able to visit her twice a day as he had before. State health officials had ordered such facilities to restrict visitors as part of their efforts to protect those most vulnerable to the new disease sweeping the state.
The next time Bart saw his wife was on April 26. Dot died that same day.
More Coloradans are dying from Alzheimer’s disease during the coronavirus pandemic, and the recent rise in new cases and hospitalizations has doctors worried that a “third wave” in this state will cut people off from the care they need and make those living in long-term care facilities even more isolated.
“We will start to see more of these deaths occurring with more hospitalizations and more people in the ICU,” said Dr. Zachary Macchi, an instructor in the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology. “Ultimately, more of those patients are going to be those who are in living facilities and are at risk.”
At least 1,053 people died from Alzheimer’s disease in Colorado during the first six months of the pandemic, which is up 26% from the 3-year-average for the same period, according to data from the state Department of Public Health and Environment.
The increase of Alzheimer’s deaths comes as total fatalities have soared 20% between March and August. Dot Bartholomew is one of an estimated 22,723 Coloradans to have died during that period, a toll that extends beyond those who have died directly from COVID-19.
Some of the Alzheimer’s deaths might be COVID-19 cases that were missed early in the pandemic when testing was limited. But they also highlight the toll social isolation has taken on part of the state’s most vulnerable residents, according to medical experts.
The FDA is expediting a revolutionary clinical-stage head device to beat back Alzheimer’s disease at home
NeuroEM Therapeutics is poised to deliver a knockout blow to Alzheimer’s disease. The clinical-stage medical device company is pleased to announce FDA Breakthrough Device designation for its bioengineered head device shown to reverse Alzheimer’s memory loss in its pilot study, published last fall in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201028005376/en/
Woman pictured wearing NeuroEM Therapeutics’ bioengineered MemorEM™ cap and arm control box. This revolutionary head device has earned FDA Breakthrough Device designation, having demonstrated in a pilot study that it can reverse Alzheimer’s disease. This woman’s participation in the study resulted in her regaining the equivalent of 12 months of memory. (Photo: Business Wire)
“No other drug or device has received this highest FDA designation to accelerate a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Robert Matthews, PhD, CEO of NeuroEM Therapeutics. “No other treatment has demonstrated the clinical results we have thus far, to not only slow but in fact reverse the progressive, debilitating loss of memory caused by this devastating brain disease.”
The FDA has given Breakthrough status to over 300 devices and over 100 drugs, but none to a therapeutic for Alzheimer’s disease – until now. NeuroEM’s head device (MemorEMTM) is the first-ever Alzheimer’s treatment (device or drug) to receive FDA Breakthrough status. The FDA program is designed to expedite the development and review process of new technology for patients with life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
NeuroEM’s novel, proprietary technology, called Transcranial Electromagnetic Treatment (TEMT), achieves what other treatments for AD have not. In fact, no other therapy comes close to MemorEM’s remarkable results, made possible by its unique modes of action.
In just two months of daily use, the MemorEM restored on average the equivalent of 12 months of memory for 7 of 8 participants in its pilot study, none of whom experienced adverse side effects.
Treatment is easy, comfortable and safe. A patient wears what appears to be a simple cap that belies the complex biomedical engineering within it. The device is worn twice a day in home for an hour at a time, and its design allows the patient to move around home as usual.
NeuroEM has pioneered TEMT to successfully penetrate the skull to reach vital nerve cells in the brain called neurons. NeuroEM’s revolutionary TEMT technology works by breaking up small aggregates (oligomers) of two toxic proteins, called β-amyloid and tau, that are made inside the brain’s neurons during the Alzheimer’s disease process. These two toxic oligomers appear to be the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease by wreaking havoc on vital functions within neurons – especially in brain areas involved in memory. The electromagnetic waves emanating from multiple emitters within NeuroEM’s MemorEM head device easily penetrate the human brain and gently disassociate the toxic oligomers inside neurons resulting in a reversal of Alzheimer’s memory impairment in key
Learning a new language is possible even in adulthood
The Alzheimer’s Association revealed that more than five million Americans are currently living with the disease and the number is projected to reach 14 million by 2050. The numbers may be grim, but recent research showed that there is one way to delay its onset, and that is through bilingualism. Learning a new language at any age can greatly help keep the brain healthier.
Dr. Ellen Bialystok, a Canadian psychologist and professor who has the rank of Distinguished Research Professor at York University, Toronto, has made one of the most compelling researches on the relationship between bilingualism and the brain. Bialystok, in a research published in Neurology, titled, “Delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Bilingualism as a form of cognitive reserve,” revealed that bilinguals often receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s about four to five years later than monolinguals.
“The more you use another language, the better you get at it. Well, that’s not surprising, but along with that, the more you use two languages, the more your brain subtly rewires,” Bialystok told CNN
Bialystok noted that in terms of the benefits that the brain gets when it comes to bilingualism, levels of education do not matter at all. She highlighted that one of the most profound results of bilingualism was observed among illiterates or those who did not have any formal education. Speaking two languages was the only real way that their brains receive stimulation, such that the exercise provides protection to their brains as they grow older.
Bilingualism benefits the brain.Photo: jamesoladujoye/Pixabay
Bialystok stated that the number of years that one speaks two languages would mean a longer period that the brain keeps on reorganizing. The earlier that people start becoming bilingual, the better.
Tamar Gollan, professor at the University of California, San Diego, said that people could not just turn off a language. Bilinguals are faced with everyday choices that monolinguals do not face. To this effect, the brain works harder to speak two languages.
Learning a new language even as an adult can greatly benefit brain health. Just like exercise, wherein the more that one exercise, the greater that one expands his capacity for oxygen. By exercising the brain more through bilingualism, the brain maintains its flexibility. Add in physical activities, eating healthy and sufficient amounts of sleep, and one may be able to keep the brain healthier.
Scientists are closing in on a long-sought goal _ a blood test to screen people for possible signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Half a dozen research groups gave new results at a conference on these experimental tests. (July 15)
An artificial intelligence program analyzing language predicted whether people with no memory or thinking problems would develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life, researchers said.
The study performed by IBM and funded by drug giant Pfizer found a computerized model analyzing language patterns accurately predicted up to 74% of participants diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease later in life. The study appeared Thursday in the journal EClinicalMedicine.
The study is the latest in an emerging research field focusing on early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, the memory-robbing disease that afflicts about 5.8 million Americans.
Many researchers are working to develop and study blood tests to detect Alzheimer’s disease before memory and thinking problems occur. Blood tests can potentially be more precise than memory and thinking tests now used to diagnose the disease. The tests also could be a less-expensive way to conduct clinical studies.
IBM officials say their study of language patterns show another possible tool for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Ajay Royyuru, IBM’s vice president of healthcare and life sciences research, said IBM’s research efforts to track language shows the potential for a non-invasive test that “presents a better window for targeted interventions.”
The study analyzed more than 700 written samples from 270 participants in the decades-old Framingham Heart Study, which has collected detailed medical histories, physical exams and labs test from thousands of participants. Study participants were shown a cookie-theft picture and asked to write a description of the image.
The samples were collected when study participants showed no signs of memory loss. The study predicted Alzheimer’s disease an average of 7.6 years before participants were diagnosed.
Based on written samples from 80 participants, the study more accurately predicted Alzheimer’s than other methods such as evaluating a genetic susceptibility gene, demographics or psychological tests, the study said.
Risk factors found in language can include repeating questions, stories and statements, the study said. The study also cited agraphia, or loss of the ability to write, which can lead to errors or less complex language.
Royyuru said tracking language patterns over time could be done as part of a routine physical or behavioral health exam. Doctors might track collect a baseline of a patient’s language skills as a young adult and update the test every 5 years, he said.
“That is not in normal clinical practice today,” Royyuru said. “The technology allows us to think about this as something that would be possible.”
More: Is this Alzheimer’s drug a breakthrough for millions? Company unveils mixed results
More: Study: Blood test for Alzheimer’s detects signs 20 years before memory, thinking falter
More: Is this drug the most promising development on Alzheimer’s in recent history?
LOS ANGELES — An estimated 5.5 million people in the United States live with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia.
Keck Medicine of USC is enrolling individuals in an international phase 3 clinical trial to examine the safety and effectiveness of deep brain stimulation to treat Alzheimer’s. The study uses electrical impulses to stimulate the region of the brain known as the fornix, which is associated with memory and learning.
“Deep brain stimulation has successfully treated conditions such as Parkinson’s disease by improving motor skills, and we are now investigating if this therapy can stabilize or improve cognitive function,” says Darrin Lee, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon with Keck Medicine of USC and the site’s principal investigator of the study. “Based on the results of earlier phases of this clinical trial, the treatment offers a potential benefit for patients with mild Alzheimer’s.”
This randomized, double-blind study will last four years. Subjects will first take a standardized assessment test for Alzheimer’s to be used as a baseline measure of cognitive ability throughout the study.
Next, researchers will implant electrodes into subjects’ brains that connect to a battery pack, similar to a heart pacemaker, placed underneath the collarbone.
For the first year of the study, subjects will be given either low-frequency stimulation to the brain, high-frequency stimulation or a placebo — no stimulation.
“For those with Alzheimer’s disease, certain parts of the brain become atrophied,” Lee says. “We are testing to see if stimulating the brain’s fornix can reawaken brain activity in this area and stop the progression of the disease.”
During the first year, subjects will be given subsequent cognitive tests to check if their memory or learning skills have held steady or improved. At the end of the year, study researchers will examine data to determine which level of stimulation had the most impact on these skills.
For the next three years of the trial, all subjects in the study will receive what researchers have determined is the optimal frequency of deep brain stimulation, even those originally receiving the placebo. Patients will continue to be given cognitive assessments throughout the four-year period.
To qualify for the trial, patients must be 65 or older, have been diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s and take Alzheimer’s medication, and have a caregiver or family member who can accompany them to doctor visits.
The clinical trial involves approximately 200 patients at some 20 sites in the United States, Canada and Germany. Keck Medicine plans to enroll 8-15 patients.
The trial is sponsored by Functional Neuromodulation, Inc.
Those interested in enrolling in the clinical trial with Keck Medicine can contact Amanda Romano at [email protected] or 213-393-5640.
Keck Medicine co-investigators of the trial include psychiatrist Carlos Manuel Figueroa, MD, and neurologist Elizabeth Joe, MD.
People of all ages have moments when it feels like we’re on the edge of recalling something but can’t quite do it—where we parked our car or left our phone, for example, or what name goes with that familiar face. It’s extremely frustrating in the moment, but for most of us, we can usually remember if we try. For patients with Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and many other dementia-causing diseases, however, memory loss is much more profound.
Given the steady rise in the numbers of Alzheimer’s patients, in particular, the research community and pharmaceutical companies agree that the development of treatment strategies is critical, now more than ever. Yet despite decades of research, we are still trying to understand why these patients can’t remember—and trying to find some way we might be able to help.
But we may be closer to an answer.
A well-known feature of early Alzheimer’s is a difficulty remembering recent events. We’ve always assumed that there are two possible explanations: one is that these patients can’t store new information properly in the brain; the other is that their ability to recall stored information has been weakened. But maybe there’s another way to think about it. Consider a public library in which each book represents a memory. If the library doesn’t have the book you want, you’re out of luck. This would be like asking Alzheimer’s patients to remember something that hasn’t been stored in their brain in the first place.
Even if the library has the book, though, you still need several pieces of information to locate it—what floor it’s on, what rack, what row on the rack. If you were missing some of that information, you wouldn’t find it either. That corresponds to the second assumption about why people with Alzheimer’s can’t remember. Although most research has focused on ways of improving memory storage in Alzheimer’s, this has not led to led to treatments capable of improving recall.
On the other hand, scientific evidence in support of the “weakened memory recall” idea in Alzheimer’s has been difficult to obtain, which is why this possibility has received considerably less attention. But in a Nature paper published in 2016, our team investigated both memory storage and memory recall processes in an animal model of early Alzheimer’s disease. In clinical research, there is no simple method to distinguish between memory storage versus recall deficits in Alzheimer’s patients, because standard cognitive tests rely on the patient’s ability to verbally describe previous events.
To circumvent this issue, I developed an approach that allowed us to activate the neurons that store memory information, referred to as memory engrams, through optogenetics—that is, introducing a gene that is light sensitive into the memory engram cells of “Alzheimer’s” mice, then delivering blue light pulses to activate them—and measuring memory recall strength directly. To our surprise, we found comparable numbers of engram cells in normal healthy animals and Alzheimer’s animals, suggesting that the initial memory storage process is intact. Targeting the recall process in Alzheimer’s animals led
It was 2003 and Maria Shriver had begun her tenure as first lady of California when her father, Sargent Shriver — U.S. ambassador to France, 1972 vice presidential candidate and the first director and co-founder of the Peace Corps — was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a ravaging brain disease that, according to statistics procured from the Alzheimer’s Assn., affects some 5.8 million Americans and 50 million individuals globalwide. Sargent Shriver died of the disease in 2011.
While societal awareness of Alzheimer’s has grown over the past several years, at the time of her father’s diagnosis, Shriver, selected as Variety’s Entertainment Philanthropist of the Year for her role as founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM), was left muddling through a morass of unanswered questions. Doctors, neurologists, scientists — they were conducting clinical studies on Alzheimer’s. But there were gaping holes in what conclusive facts that research had thus far yielded. In 2003, Alzheimer’s remained very much a misunderstood, underfunded and underpublicized disease. This was maddening to Shriver, a seasoned investigative journalist whose notable career — from her days as network news weekend anchor and correspondent to her her award-winning reports on “Dateline NBC” to her special anchor post on “NBC Nightly News” — embraced the dogged pursuit of truth.
“The more I questioned as a journalist, as a daughter, as a woman, the more I found that I had to really chart my own path there,” says Shriver. “I looked for a children’s book about it so I could explain what Alzheimer’s was to my kids. I couldn’t find one, so I went and wrote one.”
“What’s Happening to Grandpa?” was published in 2004 and became an instant bestseller. In 2009, Shriver earned two Emmy Awards for co-producing the five-part HBO documentary series “The Alzheimer’s Project.” “Thus began my foray into trying to understand the Alzheimer’s space,” says Shriver.
Driven and determined, Shriver drew on her platform as first lady of California to do whatever she could to educated about Alzheimer’s and debunk the myths surrounding the disease. She organized a women’s conference on the subject and was conducting breakout sessions for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients when she discovered that an inordinate amount of women — more so than men, it appeared — were stricken with the disease.
“More and more women came up to me and said, ‘Thank you for doing this, my mom has Alzheimer’s,’ ” says Shriver. “And I thought, there are a lot of women with Alzheimer’s. And so I would ask all the doctors that I was meeting, ‘Why is it that I think there are more women than men with Alzheimer’s?’ And the doctors would answer, ‘No, no, that’s just not the case. You just think that because women live longer.’ And whenever people in my life have told me, ‘No, you just think that,’ I’m like, ‘You know what? I don’t think so.’ So I decided to research and find out.”
At the time, Shriver was acting as caregiver not only to