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What Has Been Happening On Alzheimers Research

Jun 12, 2008
"All in all, we are faced obviously with a peculiar disease process," physician Alois Alzheimer wrote in 1901. After performing an autopsy on one of his patients, the German doctor concluded that the memory loss, disorientation, impaired speech and delusions were caused by brain shrinkage, widespread dead cells and protein deposits. He began to learn more about Alzheimers, but just fifteen years later, Alois Alzheimer died, never knowing that a whole branch of Alzheimers research would develop based on his work.

Some of the newest Alzheimers research has focused on brain cell connectors. A new study done by Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine found a connection between signs of Alzheimers and a brain protein called kalirin-7. "We already knew that kalirin controlled the synapses," lab researcher Peter Penzes explains.

"But now we understand how it works and that it could be responsible for memory storage. Kalirin acts like a volume dial, making the synapses stronger. This suggests that a drug that would stimulate kalirin could improve memory or delay the progression of memory loss." The next step in this Alzheimers brain research is, of course, human clinical trials.

A British Alzheimers research study suggests that Hormone Replacement Therapy may protect against memory loss in women. "It's further evidence that the brain systems that are involved in dementia are adversely affected by loss of ovarian function," claimed head of research Dr Michael Craig.

"There may be a critical window of time around the menopause stage when HRT may have a beneficial effect in protecting against Alzheimers and dementia," he added. However, some American studies found that HRT may actually increase the risk of Alzheimers symptoms, Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease, suggesting another stalemate.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, warned: "This is not conclusive evidence and women are not advised to start HRT specifically to protect against dementia since it can have side-effects and possibly increase the risk of stroke."

While there has been no definitive Alzheimers prevention found by research, doctors say that exercise, which raises your heart rate for at least 30 minutes several times per week diminishes your risk of Alzheimers. In animal experiments at the University of Chicago, they found that signs of Alzheimers were less visible in mice that had frequent exercise.

In fact, active mice who exercised had 50-80% less plaque deposits in the brain than sedentary mice. "Regular physical exercise is probably the best means we have of preventing Alzheimers disease today," says Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Alzheimers Research Center at the Mayo Clinic. He added, "It's better than medications, better than intellectual activity, better than supplements and diet."
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