Most of us know one of the 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease and have seen the memory loss and disorientation in these patients.
But researchers are fighting against the disease that steals precious memories from its victims.
Dr. Jerold Chun from Sanford Burnham Prebys says short-term memory is the first to go for patients with Alzheimer's disease.
"Typically … the long-term seem to be sustained for a much longer period of time, before they too can be lost in the most severe cases," Chun said.
But researchers from the University of Buffalo say it may be possible to restore memory function in Alzheimer's patients.
The study looked at mice with the disease and brain tissue from deceased Alzheimer's patients and found that by focusing on gene changes, they could reverse memory decline in animal models.
"It's possible you could reboot, if you want to use the computer terminology, the brain in some way that had memories and get them back in there," Chun said.
When the animals were given an enzyme inhibitor, researchers saw dramatic cognitive improvement, and this may pave the way for potential drug targets.
The University of Buffalo study was funded by a National Institutes of Health grant focused on novel treatment strategies for Alzheimer's disease.
RESTORING MEMORY IN ALZHEIMER'S: THE SEARCH GOES ON
BACKGROUND: Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. It is the only disease in the 10 leading causes of deaths that cannot be cured, prevented or slowed. One in 10 Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's. Between 2017 and 2025 every state is expected to see at least a 14 percent rise in the prevalence of Alzheimer's. There has been an 89 percent increase in deaths due to Alzheimer's between 2000 and 2014. More than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer's, and by 2050, it's estimated there will be as many as 16 million Americans living with Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is a disease that robs people of their memory. At first, people have a hard time remembering recent events, though they might easily recall things that happened years ago. People with Alzheimer's might forget their loved ones. They might forget how to dress themselves, feed themselves, and use the toilet. The disease makes brain tissue break down over time and usually happens to people over age 65. A person can live with Alzheimer's for just a few years or a few decades. (Source: https://www.alzheimers.net/resources/alzheimers-statistics/ and https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/understanding-alzheimers-disease-basics)
SIGNS OF ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE: For most people with Alzheimer's, those who have the late-onset
variety, symptoms first appear in their mid-60's. Signs of early-onset Alzheimer's begin between a person's 30's and mid-60's. The first symptoms of Alzheimer's can vary from person to person. Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment. Decline in non-memory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may also signal the very early stages of the disease. Some people may be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. As the disease progresses, people experience greater memory loss and other cognitive difficulties. People with severe Alzheimer's cannot communicate and are completely dependent on others for their care. Near the end, the person may be in bed most or all of the time as the body shuts down. A common cause of death for people with Alzheimer's disease is aspiration pneumonia. This type of pneumonia develops when a person cannot swallow properly and takes food or liquids into the lungs instead of air. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's, though there are medicines that can treat the symptoms of the disease. (Source: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-signs-alzheimers-disease)
ULTRASOUND TREATMENT BREAKTHROUGH: A promising new technique using ultrasound to clear the toxic protein clumps thought to cause dementia and Alzheimer's disease is moving to the first phase of human trials next year. The innovative treatment has proven successful across several animal tests and presents an exciting, drug-free way to potentially battle dementia. The initial research at the University of Queensland was working to find a way to use ultrasound to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier with the goal of helping dementia-battling antibodies better reach their target in the brain. Early experiments with mice surprisingly revealed the targeted ultrasound waves worked to clear toxic amyloid protein plaques from the brain without any additional therapeutic drugs. "The ultrasound waves oscillate tremendously quickly, activating microglial cells that digest and remove the amyloid plaques that destroy brain synapses," explained Jürgen Götz, one of the researchers on the project. The first stage is a phase 1 safety trial, kicking off later in 2019, to explore the safety profile of the treatment in human subjects suffering from Alzheimer's disease. (Source: https://newatlas.com/ultrasound-dementia-alzheimers-human-trials/57725/)