If we could identify the people who will get Alzheimer’s Disease while they are still children, we could get them help much earlier. Will a test for this disease soon be as common as childhood vaccinations? And a controversial new treatment for Alzheimer’s is leading to what are being called “miraculous awakenings” from the disease. The family of one Alzheimer’s victim, Walter Skotchdople, has even put “before” and “after” videos on YouTube.

In the Aug. 9-15 edition of New Scientist, Daniel Elkan writes about LA researcher Edward Tobinick, who runs a private clinic where he injects Alzheimer?s patients with an anti-inflamatory drug called etanercept, which is usually used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Elkan quotes gerontologist Gordon Wilcock as saying, “It seems strange that years’ worth of damage to the brain by the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease can be reversed in a matter of minutes?but I’ve been in medicine long enough to know that things that seems implausable can sometimes actually work.”

Children of Alzheimer’s patients who are carriers of a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer?s disease have neurological changes that are detectable long before clinical symptoms may appear. Functional MRI brain imaging revealed that these symptomless carriers of the APOE-4 gene demonstrated significantly reduced functional brain connectivity between two important brain structures for memory processing.

Researcher Shi Jiang Li says, “Just as if cancer could be detected when there were only a few cells, decades before it was evident, the advantage of identifying those at great risk for having Alzheimer’s would be of tremendous value in development of interventional therapies.”

One possible therapy is cholesterol drugs called statins. People at high risk for dementia who took cholesterol-lowering statins are half as likely to develop dementia as those who do not take them.

Researcher Mary Haan says, “The bottom line is that if a person takes statins over a course of about 5-7 years, it reduces the risk of dementia by half, and that’s a really big change.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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