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Senior Care News

May 9, 2017            

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

High-tech X-rays Reveal Shape of Protein Behind Alzheimer’s

Existing Drug(s) that Slows Similar Brain Disorder Might Help

Researchers have now discovered that the proteins in the brain that eventually cause Alzheimer’s have a different shape than previously believed.

Using a high-tech X-ray machine called a synchrotron accelerator, researchers at Lund University in Sweden looked at the brains of mice developing the disease. 

Detailed microscopic images of the proteins showed that they were of similar shape to the proteins that cause a rare and terminal condition called TTR amyloidosis. 

In TTR amyloidosis, misshapen proteins gradually destroy the brain, the heart, the nerves, or other organs.  The condition is also associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

But while TTR amyloidosis has no cure (like Alzheimer’s), its progression can be slowed by existing drugs like Vyndaqel, and by drugs currently in development like Ionis TTRRx, patisiran, and others.  And because of the newly-discovered protein similarity, the Swedish scientists now believe that at least one TTR amyloidosis drug may hold promise as a new Alzheimer’s drug.

In the meantime, a handful of existing drugs are approved to slow Alzheimer’s progress or improve symptoms. 

But if findings from studies on alternative treatments for TTR amyloidosis are any indication, then curcumin (found in the spice turmeric), resveratrol (a component of red wine) EGCG (a component of green tea) or even doxycycline (normally an antibiotic) may one day prove beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s, too.  Studies have found anecdotal evidence of those substances’ possible benefits in reducing symptoms of, or even preventing, TTR amyloidosis.

 In Alzheimer’s, a buildup of malformed proteins in the brain causes the buildup of so-called plaques and tangles in the brain—leading to the progressive breakdown of brain cells that results in Alzheimer’s and accompanying dementia and loss of body function.

 As many as five million Americans are living today with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, and that number could more than triple by 2025.

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Study finds link between Parkinson’s and nerve removal surgery

A review of national medical records in Sweden found that people who underwent vagotomy, or surgical removal of the vagus nerve, were 40 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

The vagus nerve runs from the brain stem to the abdomen, and helps control automatic body processes like heart rate and digestion.  Vagotomy is sometimes used to treat ulcers with “selective vagotomy,” which only removes some branches of the vagus nerve, or “truncal vagotomy,” which fully removes the main trunk of the vagus nerve.

The study by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute looked at records for over 377,000 patients over a 40-year period—finding that those who underwent truncal vagotomies and were tracked for five years had a 40-percent lower rate of Parkinson’s than those who didn’t have truncal vagotomies and were tracked for five years.

The researchers believe the association—not cause-and-effect—may indicate that Parkinson’s originates in the gut and spreads along the vagus nerve to the brain, where the movement disorder develops.  The study was published April 26 in the journal Neurology.

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Are eye doctors not seeing AMD straight?


A late-April study in JAMA Ophthalmology indicates that regular eye exams miss about one in every four cases of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in seniors aged 60 and older.


The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama (Birmingham), re-examined 644 seniors who had been found to have normal eye health at their most recent eye check-ups.  Researchers found evidence of AMD in about 25 percent of the study participants.


According to the researchers, about 14 million Americans have AMD, making it the country’s leading cause of permanent vision loss.


“A dilated examination—with careful inspection of the eye’s macula [center of the retina]—is necessary to determine if there are characteristic findings of this disease in the patient,” Lenox Hill Hospital’s Dr. Mark Fromer commented to health-news outlet HealthDay.  "It is imperative that the highest standards be adhered to in the detection of this commonplace disease.”


According to Dr. Fromer, dietary change and the use of nutritional supplements can “dramatically” slow the progression of macular disease.