Advancements in Alzheimer’s Research Made in 2020

Brain from wooden puzzles. Mental Health and problems with memory.With so much negative news in the forefront of 2020, it is worth reflecting on a number of the wonderful achievements the year brought – most notably the advancements in Alzheimer’s disease research. Katie McDonough, director of programs and services for the Alzheimer’s Association, shares, “There are many things that we’re learning and it’s an exciting time for Alzheimer’s research.”

The following are just a few of the milestones reached that are taking us ever nearer to a cure:

  • Identification of Alzheimer’s risk factors. Understanding the leading risk factors for dementia, such as excessive alcohol consumption, pollution, and traumatic brain injury (among others) is projected to lower cases of Alzheimer’s around the world up to 40%.
  • Falling rates of Alzheimer’s cases. For the past three decades, dementia diagnoses in North America and Europe have declined by 13% per decade – very likely due to changes in lifestyle.
  • Progress towards earlier diagnosis. The Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases initiative (EDoN) has been launched, wherein digital devices are now being developed to diagnosis dementia earlier – as early as 10 – 15 years before symptoms begin.
  • Greater focus on MCI. Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is now being evaluated more closely, making it possible for earlier strategy, diagnosis and treatment.
  • Dementia blood tests. Predictors for the potential risk of Alzheimer’s disease are becoming more sophisticated, and in a recently available study from Sweden, scientists identified blood-based proteins that predict future thinking and memory problems.
  • Review of antipsychotic prescription drugs. A recently available study conducted by the University College London uncovered an elevated rate for the prescription of antipsychotic medicines for those with dementia – likely from the increased need for delirium management along with agitation and anxiety from COVID-19 restrictions. These medications are recommended only when no alternative is available, and the reduction of their use is currently being further explored.
  • Artificial intelligence. At a faster pace and less expensive, a new AI solution is able to determine the form of proteins in the brain, helping medical researchers design medications that can help remove these proteins.
  • Aducanumab. The FDA accepted this promising drug in 2020 for a priority review process, meaning that sometime early in 2021, we should be finding out if it is approved for use within the general population.

At Generations at Home, we are committed to following the current research on dementia, as well as on providing the cutting-edge, highly skilled care that helps those diagnosed with dementia live to their greatest potential. Whether the need is for full-time care, or simply several hours every week for trusted respite services, reach out to us for an in-home assessment for more information on how we can help.

An Accidental Discovery Turned Into a Potential Parkinson’s Treatment

Parkinson's disease on physicians tabletResearchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine who believed they were analyzing connective tissue cell protein received quite a shock when they alternatively stumbled upon a therapy to eradicate the observable symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in mice. Not just that, but the treatment might be useful in various conditions that call for the need to replace damaged tissue: diabetes, spinal cord injuries, perhaps even heart problems.

The research centered on a siRNA technique, in which researchers grew fibroblasts (a kind of connective tissue cell) in petri dishes while silencing the protein PTB. After a few weeks, they were surprised to learn the majority of fibroblasts had converted into neurons.

Lead author of the study, Xiang-Dong Fu, explained, “Researchers around the world have tried many ways to generate neurons in the lab, using stem cells and other means, so we can study them better, as well as to use them to replace lost neurons in neurodegenerative diseases. The fact that we could produce so many neurons in such a relatively easy way came as a big surprise.”

The research team then decided to test their new theory on Parkinson’s disease in mice, finding that it completely restored movement and functionality for the remainder of the mice’s lifetime – even those with an advanced case of the disease.

Obviously, the process to figure out if these results transfer to humans will take time and extreme care to be certain of safety. Nonetheless, for individuals struggling due to the disease and other neurodegenerative conditions, it is cause for hope.

As Fu says, “It’s my dream to see this through to clinical trials, to test this approach as a Parkinson’s treatment but also many other diseases where neurons are lost, such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases and stroke. And dreaming even bigger – what if we could target PTB to correct defects in other parts of the brain, to treat things like inherited brain defects?”

As we look forward to the next steps in this significant breakthrough, you can trust Generations at Home for professional, highly skilled home care for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. A few of the various ways we can help include:

  • Balanced meal planning and preparation
  • Light household chores
  • Shopping and other errands
  • Personal care, such as bathing/showering, getting dressed, etc.
  • Friendly companionship
  • Safe, accompanied transportation
  • And a whole lot more

To learn how we can help a senior you love with in-home care needs, reach out to us at 727-940-3414 and request a free in-home consultation.