All things Alzheimer’s: This week’s news on the most common form of dementia

While the start of Spring may not have brought on the warmer weather that we were all hoping for, it certainly brought in a wave of attention for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). There seemed to be no shortage of exciting and thought-provoking AD news this week so the IOA decided to highlight some of the top stories here.

| 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report

First up, the Alzheimer’s Association recently released their official 2015 Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 11.58.48 AMAlzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report, a statistical resource for the most current knowledge on all aspects of Alzheimer’s disease. This report includes information on Alzheimer’s prevalence, mortality and morbidity, caregiving, and costs. In addition, this year’s report includes special coverage on disclosing the diagnosis of AD to patients and their family members, which is an issue that has sparked quite a bit of conversation this week as well.

| Disclosing the Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease

According to new findings from research conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 55% of Alzheimer’s patients do not know their diagnosis. They are typically treated without being told their condition until the disease has progressed to a much more advanced stage. Representatives from the Alzheimer’s Association explain that the biggest problem with this, other than overriding a patient’s general right to be in-the-know, is that it is taking away the patient’s ability to make certain life decisions and plan for their future or to choose to participate in potentially beneficial clinical trials while they still can.

“Doctors commonly cite fear of causing emotional distress as one of the main reason they fail to disclose an Alzheimer’s diagnosis,” quoted the recent CBS News article covering the story, which also listed “uncertainty about their diagnosis, insufficient time to fully discuss treatment options and support services, a lack of support services, and the general stigma that surrounds Alzheimer’s,” as the other reasons given by doctors for not disclosing the diagnosis.

For the full CBS News article, click here.

| New clinical trial raises hope for possible treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

Recent news of a “game changing” clinical trial for Alzheimer’s treatment highlights the ongoing A4 Study that is testing whether the drug Solanezumab can slow the progression or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 2.53.24 PMThe clinical trial, which is being offered at several different sites across the country including the University of Pennsylvania, is targeting patients who have not yet experienced symptoms related to AD, but whose brain scans indicate they will likely develop the disease in the future. The scans reveal that these patients have a buildup of amyloid plaque, which is one of the proteins believed to cause Alzheimer’s disease, in addition to tau tangles. The hope is that this drug will kill the amyloid before the amyloid can kill the brain cells, resulting in the disease.

For the full CBS News article, click here.

For more information on the A4 Study, click here.

| In other news…

While not directly related to Alzheimer’s disease, the coverage on the A4 Study also brings up the conversation about another recent breakthrough in the realm of neurodegenerative diseases right here at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn Medicine researcher, Corey McMillan, research assistant professor of Neurology in the Penn Frontotemporal Degeneration Center, and his colleagues, have identified a new potential drug target to protect against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD). They have found that hypermethylation, the epigenetic ability to turn down or turn off a bad gene implicated in 10 to 30 percent of all patients with ALS and FTD, can serve as a protective barrier preventing the development of these diseases.

For the full Penn Medicine News Release, click here.


Geriatrics: From Bedside to Bench to Policy – Singing a Single Song in Separate Keys ft. Neil Resnick, MD

NeilResnickPicEarlier this week, the IOA welcomed Visiting Scholar, Neil Resnick, MD to discuss Geriatrics: From Bedside to Bench to Policy – Singing a Single Song in Separate Keys. Dr. Resnick, Thomas Detre Professor of Medicine; Chief, Division of Geriatric Medicine; Associate Director, Aging Institute of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Senior Services and University of Pittsburg; and Director, Hartford Center of Excellence in Geriatrics, focused his talk mainly around his research on urinary incontinence in older adults and the myths surrounding this geriatric syndrome.

Myth #1: Urinary incontinence is a normal consequence of aging.

Myth #2: Urinary incontinence is inevitable in the demented, frail, and elderly.

Myth #3: Urinary incontinence is less treatable in the elderly.

During a brief interview, Dr. Resnick addressed these myths and explains how he and his colleagues work to treat, and ultimately cure, the burden of urinary incontinence in older adults.

Dr. Resnick explains that, according to his years of research, incontinence is never normal, regardless of age, even in those with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Aging does not cause the symptoms, but merely predisposes the individual and makes them more vulnerable to this syndrome. Therefore, it is not untreatable, as long as you can determine what is setting the stage for the development of incontinence. In younger people, the cause of incontinence is almost always due to the diseased organ, however, in older people this is rarely the case. Instead, the reason can be as simple as a medication or an injury or issue unrelated to the urinary tract.

Another important facet of his research is the realization that this treatment approach can be applied to a variety of other areas in geriatrics such as memory impairment, syncope, fall risks, and depression among others. The idea behind this unified approach is that, regardless of the condition, to properly treat or cure it you must detect any and all outside issues or factors such as medication, other diseased organs, or functional and sensory impairment, rule them out as the cause, and then proceed by addressing the organ-specific issues if still necessary.