7 Fascinating Finds in Alzheimer's Research

Carol Bradley Bursack | Feb 27, 2015

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Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s. The urgency to find a cure has spurred the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and other public and private research entities to fund simultaneous studies in hope of finding the key to ending Alzheimer’s. Here are some of the latest efforts.

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Ongoing Genetic Study

The Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN) is an international research partnership of scientists working to understand younger onset Alzheimer’s which is caused by a gene mutation. Researchers hope that the DIAN study will eventually benefit people affected by any type of Alzheimer’s.

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Related - Columbian Family Studied

The Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API) is studying an experimental anti‐amyloid antibody treatment called crenezumab in approximately 300 people from a large extended family in Colombia. The family shares a rare genetic mutation that typically triggers Alzheimer’s symptoms around age 45.

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Tau-Based Vaccine

The microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) gene has been identified as increasing the risk for developing Alzheimer’s. The MAPT gene encodes the tau protein, which is involved with a number of neurodegenerative disorders. These findings could open the door for improved diagnosis and treatment, and possibly a vaccine.

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Fungi

Researchers have discovered three types of natural fungi that were effective in inhibiting tau accumulation. All three blocked the aggregation of tau 100 percent as far as the researchers could determine, although some needed a high concentration to do so.

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Gut bacteria

Researchers looking into gut bacteria have found evidence of a link between gut bacteria and brain function. Some scientists are studying the use of prebiotics and antimicrobials to see if altering gut bacteria is a viable strategy for treating several brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s.

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Miracle molecule

Other researchers have found that the onset of Alzheimer’s disease could be delayed by a molecule that occurs naturally in humans. A study in mice showed that the molecule stopped a runaway process that leads to Alzheimer’s. The substance works by slowing the accumulation of sticky clumps of protein in the brain.

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Low vitamin D3 and Alzheimer's

Increasing readily available vitamin D3 may help some people avoid Alzheimer’s. The journal Neurology recently published an article confirming a strong association between low levels of vitamin D and increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in elderly people in the U.S.

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Conclusion

Watch for even more diverse findings as scientists cooperate across the globe. Only time will tell which approach or combination of approaches will end Alzheimer’s. Yet time is crucial. Right now, one in three seniors is dying from Alzheimer’s, costing indescribable heartbreak and billions of healthcare dollars.