Monthly Archives: Marzo 2014

Prions are infectious agents responsible for neurodegenerative diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalitis (commonly known as “mad cow disease”) and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease in humans.

Since the discovery in the 60s that an incurable and fatal disease could be caused by an infectious agent formed by nothing but converted misfolded proteins, the mechanisms responsible for the conversion of a normal prion protein into its infectious counterpart – the scrapie prion – have been relentlessly investigated. Researchers now know that once converted into the scrapie form, these abnormal proteins have the ability to sequestrate normal proteins, which are then converted to form an increasing aggregate of fibrils that builds up mainly in the brain.

More recently, several studies have suggested that a yet unknown cofactor plays a role in the process of conversion from a normal prion into the scrapie form. Among the factors potentially involved in the process are molecules belonging to the family of glycosaminoglycans, or simply GAGs. In fact, GAGs have been implicated in several degenerative diseases, including prion diseases. However, while some studies point to these molecules as the culprit for prion conversion, others suggest an opposite effect in which the molecules protect against prion conversion.

In a paper entitled “Heparin binding confers prion stability and impairs its aggregation” and published ahead of print in The FASEB Journal, the group now unveils more details on heparin and prion conversion and presents additional evidence that might help explain the conflicting results previously reported.

Source: Science Codex

The PredictND project, started by European research organisations, aims at developing and validating new procedures for the earlier diagnosis of memory disorders and for detecting individuals at high risk of developing memory disorders.

Co-funded under the European 7th Framework Programme, PredictND will not only develop new, cost-efficient methods for enabling earlier and more reliable diagnostics of different memory disorders in clinical practice; the project will also provide computer-based tools that help clinicians form a holistic view of the patient by combining information from several sources, such as clinical tests, imaging and blood samples, and by comparing these measurements to previously diagnosed cases available in hospital databases.

Source: EHealthNews

Research implicates new player in Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

More than a century of research into the causes of dementia has focused on the clumps and tangles of abnormal proteins that appear in the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases. However, scientists know that at least one piece of the puzzle has been missing because some people with these abnormal protein clumps show few or no signs of cognitive decline.

A new study offers an explanation for these longstanding mysteries. Researchers have discovered that a gene regulator active during fetal brain development, called REST, switches back on later in life to protect aging neurons from various stresses, including the toxic effects of abnormal proteins. The researchers also showed that REST is lost in critical brain regions of people with Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment.

“Our work raises the possibility that the abnormal protein aggregates associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases may not be sufficient to cause dementia; you may also need a failure of the brain’s stress response system,” said Bruce Yankner, Harvard Medical School professor of genetics and leader of the study.

The results were published in the Mar 19th edition of Nature Magazine.

Source: Medical Express (Stephanie Dutchen)

Quality of life (QoL) improves under subthalamic deep brain stimulation (STN-DBS) in Parkinson’s disease (PD), whereas social functioning may be disrupted. This disruption could negatively influence the family dynamic, leading to different perceptions of the STN-DBS outcome by patients and caregivers.

A recent study, published in the March 17th edition of Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, demonstrated unequal perception of QoL between patients and caregivers under STN-DBS. The fact that social functioning did not improve longitudinally iin the study was suggested to be due to patient’s higher levels of apathy and reduced motivation following surgery. These findings stress the importance of considering caregiver’s input in DBS patients’ outcomes and the need for pre-operative preparation.

Source: European Parkinson’s Disease Association

Researchers have long been searching for a blood-based test that could predict Alzheimer’s disease. In the March 9 Nature Medicine, researchers report that a panel of 10 lipids could one day fit the bill.

In a small study, plasma levels of these lipids distinguished, with 90 percent accuracy, who would develop cognitive impairment over the next two to three years. If the results are confirmed in larger samples, it would encourage hopes for a blood test for Alzheimer’s. However, the authors stress that is still years away.

Numerous questions remain, including whether the observed lipid changes are specific to AD, or represent a more general marker for neurodegeneration. Despite this, the findings have generated excitement in the popular press, with numerous outlets touting the test as a potential AD diagnostic

Source: AlzForum

The latest research from the Alzheimer’s Association shows a woman’s lifetime risk of developing the neurodegenerative disease is one in six, compared with one in 11 for men.

Women are also shouldering the responsibility for caring for parents affected by Alzheimer’s. More than twice as many women as men provide 24-hour care for a loved one with the disease, and twice as many women as men gave up working full time in order to do so. The full 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report can be downloaded at the link below.

Source: Alzheimer Association