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Alzheimer’s disease is becoming too common as our population ages.

Globally, the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias has increased by 147.95% from 1990 to 2019, with 2.92 million cases recorded. Women are particularly affected by Alzheimer’s, as 65% of cases involve female patients. Unfortunately, only one in four people with the disease gets diagnosed, despite there being nearly 36 million people with dementia in the world today.

Alzheimer’s disease has no known cure and up until recently, there have been few treatment options that have been proven effective at slowing down the progression of the disease.

There have been some new developments that are promising. The United States has approved four cholinesterase inhibitors (ChE-Is) as symptomatic therapies for Alzheimer’s, and they are donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine, and memantine. These drugs are capable of temporarily slowing down the progression of dementia but they cannot cure it or restore normal cognitive functioning.

Aduhelm has been proven to be effective in treating cognitive symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s, making it a much-needed addition to the treatments available.

But a new study takes a very different approach and has had some promising initial results.

A new study from UTHealth Houston has found that a whole blood exchange could be a novel, disease-modifying therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, led by Claudio Soto, Ph.D. and Akihiko Urayama, PhD, showed that performing a series of whole blood exchange treatments to partially replace blood from mice exhibiting Alzheimer’s disease-causing amyloid precursor proteins with complete blood from healthy mice of the same genetic background could reduce the formation of amyloid plaque in the brain.

The results were published in Molecular Psychiatry and showed that this type of treatment could reduce the buildup of toxic substances in the brain and potentially improve spatial memory performance in aged mice with amyloid pathology.

While this research is quite promising, more studies are needed to understand how this type of treatment may be effective for humans.

[Dec. 16, 2022: Caitie Barkley, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston]

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