28 February 2013

Treatment Window For Alzheimer's Disease and Related Conditions Identified

A possible treatment window of several years for the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease and other memory related symptoms have been identified.

Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a disease where the normal functions of the brain is damaged. It is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, cognition, and psychological behavior.

AD is caused by protein fragments called plaques and tangles start to combine and stick together to form the Alzheimer's protein. This protein starts to kill brain cells starting at the hippocampus, slowly progressing until it ultimately destroys the whole brain.

Initially, AD affects the memory and cognitive functions of the patient. It slowly moves on and destroys the area of the brain that regulates balance and mobility. In the end, AD ultimately destroys the part of the brain that controls breathing and heart functions. It usually takes eight to ten years for patients with Alzheimer's disease to progress to this point. There is no cure for this progressive and deadly brain disease.

This disease is usually associated with elderly people but there are instances where young people under 65 contract it. According to the National Institute on Aging, as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer's disease.

Treatment Window for Plaques in Brain

Researchers have identified a possible treatment window of several years for plaques in the brain that are thought to cause memory loss in diseases such as Alzheimer's. The Mayo Clinic study is published in the Feb. 27 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"Our study suggests that plaques in the brain that are linked to a decline in memory and thinking abilities, called beta amyloid, take about 15 years to build up and then plateau," says lead author Clifford Jack, Jr., M.D., a Mayo Clinic radiologist, and the Alexander Family Professor of Alzheimer's Disease Research at Mayo Clinic.

For the study, 260 people ages 70 to 92 had two or more brain scans over an average of 1.3 years to measure plaque buildup in their brains. Of the participants, 22 percent had impaired thinking abilities or memory at the start of the study.

Video: What is Alzheimer's Disease

The study found that the rate of buildup accelerates initially, then slows before plateauing at high levels. The rate of plaque accumulation was highest in those with mid-range levels at the start of the study. Those with low levels or high levels of the plaques as the study began had lower rates of plaque buildup.

The study also found that the rate of buildup of plaques was more closely tied to the total amount of amyloid plaques in the brain than other risk factors, such as the level of cognitive impairment, age and the presence of the APOE gene, a gene linked to Alzheimer's disease.

"Our results suggest that there is a long treatment window where medications may be able to help slow buildup of the amyloid plaques that are linked to cognitive decline," Dr. Jack says. "On the other hand, trying to treat the plaque buildup after the amyloid plaque load has plateaued may not do much good."


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