Changes to eye cells could help diagnose and track Alzheimer’s disease

Posted under Blog on November 29th, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

Scientists say that changes to specific cells in the retina could potentially help diagnose and track the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The research team from Georgetown University Medical Center found that genetically engineered mice with Alzheimer’s lost thickness in this layer of eye cells. As the retina is a direct extension of the brain, the team say the loss of retinal neurons could be related to the loss of brain cells in Alzheimer’s.

The findings were presented at the US Society for Neuroscience conference which took place in Sand Diego earlier this month.

The team found looked at the thickness of the retina in an area that had not previously been investigated. They found that a loss of thickness occurred only in mice with Alzheimer’s.

Dr Scott Turner, director of the memory disorders program at Georgetown University Medical Center, said: “This suggests a new path forward in understanding the disease process in humans and could lead to new ways to diagnose or predict Alzheimer’s that could be as simple as looking into the eyes.”

Dr Turner suggested that treatments developed for Alzheimer’s could also be useful for treating glaucoma but emphasized that it was still speculation to say that retinal thinning could predict impending Alzheimer’s disease.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Laura Phipps, Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Diagnosing Alzheimer’s with accuracy can be a difficult task, which is why it’s vital to continue investing in research to improve diagnosis methods”.

Tags: Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's diagnosis, Alzheimer's Research UK, Georgetown University

New Drug Discovery Institute announced

Posted under Blog on November 22nd, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

A UK dementia research charity is to launch the Drug Discovery Institute to further research into treatments for dementia, the first of its kind anywhere in Europe.

The announcement by Alzheimer’s Research UK has been welcomed by dementia research experts from around the world.

The Institute will integrate pioneering basic science, clinical expertise and patient involvement.

The charity has called for top universities from around the UK to host the Institute and it’s planned that its lead scientists will be in place by next year.

Launching the Institute, Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research, Alzheimer’s Research UK, described it as the “missing link between the UK’s considerable expertise in fundamental science, and industry who can discoveries into benefits for people with dementia”.


Tags: Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's Research UK, Drug Discover Institute

Study finds mental performance of people with dementia improves after singing

Posted under Blog on November 15th, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

Researchers at George Mason University in Virginia who worked with elderly residents at a US care home have found that singing can play a part in boosting brain function.

The four-month study found that the mental performance of patients who sang as part of regular group singing sessions improved compared with others who just listened.

The sessions involved two groups – one with moderate dementia, the other with more severe Alzheimer’s – taking part in three 50-minute group sessions a week for four months. Only half in each group joined in with the singing; the rest turned up, but only to listen.

Each session saw patients led through familiar songs from classic musicals such as Pinocchio, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma and The Wizard of Oz.  

Scores on cognitive tests given before and after the four months of classes revealed that mental ability improved among those who joined in with the singing.  They also did better at another task that involved drawing the hands on a clock face to show a particular time.

“A lot of people have grown up singing songs and for a long time the memories are still there,” said Jane Flinn, neuroscientist at George Mason University. “When they start singing it can revive those memories.”

It’s not the first time singing has been found to be beneficial to those with Alzheimer’s. Earlier this year, a study at Helsinki University examined the impact of a ten-week signing course on patients with dementia. The researchers found that singing and listening to music improved mood, orientation and certain types of memory.

The Alzheimer’s Society in the UK runs Singing for the Brain, a regular singing group which also provides a way for people with dementia, and their carers, to express themselves and socialise in a fun and supportive setting. 



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