Anyone who watches the evening news or subscribes to alzmail (the Central New York Chapter’s e-newsletter that brings you this information three times a week) has seen three big headlines on Alzheimer research this week. Since it’s Friday, let’s take a minute and do a quick week in review.
The week began with discussion of how Alzheimer’s spreads through the brain. Researchers in New York and Boston combined results of independent studies to show how Alzheimer’s disease spreads in the brain. The scientists concluded from their work on mice that tau proteins work much like an infection. What we learned this week provided an important initial insights. However, it is important for the public and affected families to understand that until we can reproduce the effect in people and learn to beneficially manipulate it, we still need many years’ work to develop a therapy.
On Tuesday (Feb. 7), the federal government announced a major commitment to Alzheimer care and research. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins jointly announced an immediate $50 million increase in Alzheimer research this year, followed by an additional $30 million for next year. Secretary Sebelius also allocated $26 million for support services and increasing Alzheimer awareness.
“This infusion of funds is important and the Alzheimer’s Association appreciates this step by the Administration,” said Harry Johns, President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association. “We are committed to working with the Administration, Congress and the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services to ensure the development and implementation of an effective National Alzheimer’s Plan. In order to meet the expectations of all Americans affected by this epidemic, the plan must address the critical need for care and support as well as accelerate research toward prevention, treatment and ultimately a cure.”
Yesterday (Feb. 9), scientists revealed that a drug used to treat skin cancer effectively fought Alzheimer’s disease in mice. The study showed that bexoratine cleared beta amyloid plagues on the brain by increase the body’s level of the protein ApoE. This study is exciting, but we caution that it is very preliminary. Mouse models of Alzheimer’s are limited in how closely they represent human Alzheimer’s, so we are still far away from knowing if this has potential as a therapy for people with Alzheimer’s.