Alzheimer’s disease

100% Efficacy for Improving Quality of Life in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients?

This post deviates from our normal posts.  It is not about careers.  It is not directly about science and research.  But it is about results.  I recently attended a conference and had the pleasure of attending a talk by Dan Cohen about the use of music as an aide to improve quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  Music is able to accomplish this by engaging the whole mind and body.  Dan Cohen gave several examples of success stories, but one of the more powerful was Henry.  As you can see in the video, Henry was unresponsive, irritable, depressed, and at times didn’t even recognize his own daughter.  After just a few sessions of listening to music that was personalized for him, not just songs from his generation, but songs he actually used to listen to and enjoy, Henry became animated.  He began to sing and dance and he became responsive to questions and engaging. 

While Dan was not an especially polished speaker, his message was clear…personalized music is more effective than any medicine currently on the market at increasing quality of life for people with dementia.  This is a sentiment that is echoed by many, including Dr. Oliver Sacks who authored Musicophillia and Dr. Peter Davies who has been instrumental in the development of several drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease (such as Aricept).  The Music and Memory program has been implemented in over 60 nursing home/adult care facilities across North America since its inception 7 years ago and every single one of them has continued the program.  My question is this…why is this inexpensive (the cost of iPods, earphones, and music-if they are not donated) and easily implemented (just find out what music they like and download it on the iPod) program not established in every adult care facility in the world?  In the US alone there are over 5 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease and an estimated cost to/on society of ~$200,000,000,000/year.  Add to that the cost to bring an Alzheimer’s drug to market.  Now think about the efficacy of that drug.  Add in patient compliance and potential side effects.  Is there really any comparison?  The Music and Memory program can be implemented now with almost immediate results and added benefits of decreasing depression, disruptive behaviors, and anxiety. 

Modern medicine has been wonderful at extending our lifespan.  Unfortunately, this is often accompanied by debilitating diseases and poor quality of life.  As the holiday season is upon us, why don’t we get involved and do some good.  If you get a new iPod, why not donate your old one to Music and Memory ?  Better yet, start a donation center in your city and bring Music and Memory to people in your community.  Let’s see if we can make a difference worldwide.

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 46

Researchers at Stanford University have created an organic polymer that is pressure sensitive and self-healing making this material ideal for artificial skin on biomimetic prostheses.  All the pieces are coming together for Skynet.

By incorporating iron oxide (rust) into a unique V-shaped ultrathin film, scientists at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have created a new type of solar cell that can use sunlight to oxidize water and store the energy as hydrogen-based biofuels.   This design is cheaper than photovoltaic solar cells and they can store solar energy for electricity use at night.

Is the key to the fountain of youth in all of us?  After studying the immortal polyp Hydra, German scientists have discovered that the FoxO gene is evolutionarily conserved to control longevity through regulation of stem cell production and proliferation.

A world-wide collaborative effort has identified a rare variant of the TREM2 gene that nearly triples the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Is your lab’s external terabyte hard drive maxed out from all your data files?  Good thing engineers at the University of Texas have developed self-assembling block copolymers that can increase hard drive storage capacity by five fold.

Idaho State University anthropologist Jeffrey Meldrum is currently designing a remote controlled blimp for the purposes of finding the elusive Sasquatch.  I hope he equips it with a high-definition camera so I don’t have to watch any more grainy videos of purported sightings.

Have a Great Weekend!

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 45

After studying a cohort of 18-26-year-olds with autosomal dominant mutations in presenilin 1 that predispose them to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have determined structural changes to several brain regions as well as CSF proteins indicative of increased amyloid beta.  This study has shown the earliest known biomarkers for AD, which could improve screening methods, diagnosis and treatment.

Using MRI, neuroscientists have determined that recent military veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD, have decreased amygdala volume (the brain region associated with regulating fear).  The next step is determining if a smaller amygdala predisposes people to PTSD or is a result of experiencing traumatic events.

Researchers have discovered a second species of blind mole rat, Spalax (BMR), that has innate cancer resistance mediated through the release of interferon-beta.  This discover could lead to new therapies for treating carcinoma in humans.

Astronomers have discovered three planets 42 light years away from Earth that orbit their sun at a distance suitable for sustaining climate, liquid water, and possibly life.  Their discovery will spark additional observation from both land and spaced based telescopes.

A Goffin’s cockatoo named Figaro has been observed repeatedly shaping sticks to reach food placed outside of his habitat in Vienna, Austria.   Add this species to a quickly increasing list of animals observed using tools and demonstrating “higher intelligence.”

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that an electronic device implanted into the inner ear of guinnea pigs can be powered by endocochlear potential without loss in hearing.  This study sets the foundation for creating a biological battery that can power biosensors or drug delivery systems for treating hearing loss.

Researchers at Harvard have successfully recapitulated pulmonary edema using human lung cells grown onto a polymer (organ-on-a-chip) that allows them to quickly screen potential drugs for toxicity and therapeutic efficacy.  I wonder if PETA is excited or angry that they’ll have nothing to complain about in the future?

Have a great weekend!

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