Reverse Aging News March 2014

A recent study shows that a new, simple blood test was able to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) symptoms in healthy seniors five years later with 90 percent accuracy. The test was of 10 different lipids circulating within the blood. It’s similar to forecasting the onset of heart disease by looking at cholesterol and triglycerides. Five hundred and twenty-five seniors, 70 years and older participated in the study that was published in Nature Medicine.

The potential implications are huge. An estimated 5 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, with the numbers about to grow, now that all 76 million baby boomers are passing 50 this year. According to Caleb Finch, PhD, in the anti-aging DVD "Reverse Aging Now,"50 percent of people reaching the age of 85 suffer from dementia in what could be an Alzheimer’s process.”

Alzheimer’s disease is predicted to afflict 136 million people worldwide by 2050. That’s more than the population of Japan, the 10th biggest nation in the world. The disease is so debilitating that a Rand Corporation study estimated that the cost of caring for patients with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia in 2010 was $109 billion, more than the cost of caring for those battling the world’s biggest killer, cardiovascular disease. Each year, half a million Americans are estimated to die Alzheimer’s disease according to a recent study in the journal Neurology.

The AD blood test accuracy was similar to one developed at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy in 2011 which analyzes proteins in a patient’s cerebrospinal fluid, to detect whether a person has Alzheimer’s disease before any symptoms appear. The new blood test is less painful and less expensive than having a spinal tap. This test could be coupled with another blood test developed in 2012 in Australia that looked at circulating proteins in the blood as an AD predictor. The test found higher cortisol and insulinlike growth factor binding protein 2 ( IGFBP-2) among others in Alzheimer patients. These are also genetic tests available that screen for gene mutations that lead to hereditary Alzheimer’s disease.

In Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid protein plaques form between the nerve cells of the brain, slowing nerve impulse transmission, causing the brain to lose memory and function. Although there is no cure, yet; learning about the disease early could have a number of effects. Research suggests that by the time overt symptoms of memory loss and confusion develop; more than half the brain cells used in cognitive processing are irreversibly damaged.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston are currently recruiting 3,000 healthy volunteers between 65 and 85 for a clinical trial to test an amyloid-clearing drug called solanezumab. Prospective participants will first be given a cognitive test. If they fall in the normal range for their age, they’ll be given a positron emission tomography (PET) scan of their brains to check for the presence of amyloid plaques. (PET scans remain the gold standard for Alzheimer disease detection, but they’re rarely used outside of a research setting, because their $3,000 to $5,000 cost isn’t covered by Medicare.) Half the patients with plaques will be given solanezumab, the other half a placebo, to compare and see if the drug has any effect on averting dementia.

Not everybody with amyloid plaques develops Alzheimer’s disease. A Harvard Medical School study published online March 19th in Nature showed that those with AD have a depleted level of the brain protein, repressor element 1-silencing transcription factor (REST). REST acts to regulate gene activity. Researchers knew that in fetuses REST keeps neurons immature until they start to take on cognitive functions. At birth, REST goes quiescent. Researchers were startled to see REST become more active as people aged. Adults between 20 and 35 have very little REST, while healthy adults over 73 had a lot. In older adults REST seems to turn off genes that cause cell death, while it protects neurons from oxidative stress and inflammation. People with cognitive impairment memory loss and had very little REST, which kept dropping as symptoms worsened. There were healthy people with the same amyloid plaque concentration as those with Alzheimer’s disease but they showed no symptoms. Instead they had 3 times more REST than those with Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to examine REST levels in living brains, so it can't be used as a predictor.

Still the good news is, a working blood test for AD will be available in years, not decades and we are moving closer to understanding the disease and forestalling it. As we continue to age and face the prospect of our own memories and personalities decaying, remember that in addition to living a healthy lifestyle to fight Alzheimer's disease, we can lobby for more federal funding. This year cancer research will be backed by $5.4 billion, while heart disease will get $1.2 billion, but research on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias only gets a fraction of that at $666 million.

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Reverse Aging News ©2014 Checkmate Pictures
- Paul M. J. Suchecki, Editor


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