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New Research Advances from the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease 2010

HONOLULU, July 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- This week, nearly 4,000 scientists from around the world gathered to report and discuss the latest advances in research on treatments, risk factors, and diagnosis for the health epidemic of the 21st century - Alzheimer's disease - at the Alzheimer's Association's 2010 International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease (AAICAD 2010) in Honolulu.

"With an aging baby boomer generation, the Alzheimer's disease crisis will continue to touch more lives and create an unsustainable fiscal toll on the nation's healthcare system - particularly Medicare and Medicaid," said William Thies, PhD, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer at the Alzheimer's Association.

"This week we saw promising investigations being pursued on a variety of fronts - avenues that could very well lead to significant changes in Alzheimer diagnosis and treatment. However, the chronic underinvestment in Alzheimer research continues to be the greatest obstacle to bringing new, more effective therapies to people," Thies said.

"Every day, researchers go to work with the sole purpose of advancing our understanding and knowledge about Alzheimer's, which is the defining disease of the baby boomer generation. We need a government response that shows equal commitment by providing the level of funding for research that will get us better diagnostic tests, treatments, and a cure," Thies added.

  Highlights from the AAICAD 2010 included:

  --  The Alzheimer's Association announced the launch of Alzheimer's
      Association TrialMatch(TM), a confidential, free, and interactive tool
      that provides comprehensive clinical trial information and an
      individualized trial matching service for people with Alzheimer's
      disease and related dementias.  The Internet (
      and phone-based (800-272-3900) program provides a first-of-its-kind
      service in Alzheimer's by delivering individualized matches to
      clinical trials for people with Alzheimer's, their healthcare
      professionals, caregivers, and healthy volunteers.
  --  The Dementia Demonstration Project (DDP), an interdisciplinary effort
      led by the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinic Center at the
      Minneapolis Veterans (VA) Medical Center, found that early detection,
      diagnosis and care management for people newly diagnosed with
      cognitive impairment and dementia can reduce outpatient costs by
      almost 30 percent. Veterans in the study who were diagnosed in the DDP
      clinics saw their average outpatient healthcare costs decline by an
      average of $1,991 in the year after diagnosis of cognitive impairment
      compared with the year before diagnosis. In the DDP clinics, following
      evaluation, the dementia care team met with the patient and family to
      review the results, discuss the diagnosis, and outline treatment
      recommendations. Informational material, assistance in identifying
      needed services, and direct support and training from team members was
      provided, as needed.
  --  Evidence from three long-term, large-scale studies (Framingham Study,
      Cardiovascular Health Study, NHANES III) supports the association of
      physical activity and certain dietary elements (tea, vitamin D) with
      possibly maintaining cognitive ability and reducing dementia risk in
      older adults. Plus, a new study in an animal model of Alzheimer's
      reported today at AAICAD 2010 suggests that an antioxidant-rich diet
      with walnuts may benefit brain function. Research has pointed towards
      a number of factors that may impact our risk of Alzheimer's and
      cognitive decline, the strongest being reducing cardiovascular risk
      factors. The Alzheimer's Association and others have repeatedly called
      for longer-term, larger-scale research studies to clarify the roles
      that these factors play in the health of the aging brain. These
      studies from AAICAD 2010 are some of the first reports of this type in
      Alzheimer's, and that is encouraging, but it is not yet definitive
  --  Scientists at AAICAD 2010 presented the first draft reports from three
      workgroups - covering Alzheimer's disease dementia, mild cognitive
      impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer's disease, and preclinical
      Alzheimer's disease - convened by the National Institute on Aging
      (NIA) and the Alzheimer's Association to update the diagnostic
      criteria for Alzheimer's disease for the first time in 25 years. The
      proposals would change the existing criteria by better reflecting the
      various stages of the disease and the inclusion of Alzheimer's disease
      biomarkers. While the role of biomarkers differs in each of the three
      stages, much remains to be understood concerning their reliability and
      validity in diagnosis. This makes it critical that any new
      recommendations be thoroughly tested. Further input will be solicited
      by the NIA and the Association through a website launched immediately
      after the AAICAD presentations at
  --  The primary therapeutic target in Alzheimer's disease has been the
      beta amyloid peptide, which clusters outside cells in the brain to
      form sticky clumps known as plaques. Recently, more attention has been
      given to the tau protein, which aggregates inside the brain cells of
      people with Alzheimer's, forming neurofibrillary tangles. Four new,
      though very preliminary, research studies reported at AAICAD 2010
      described experimental immunotherapies for Alzheimer's - two of which
      target tau directly and two of which may reduce tau even though their
      primary target was beta amyloid. Importantly, these studies teach us
      more not only about tau-targeted therapies but also about the
      progression of Alzheimer's disease. It may be that amyloid changes in
      the brain happen early in Alzheimer's, and tau-related changes happen
      "downstream" where they have a more direct effect on cognitive
      function. Thus, immunotherapy treatments targeting amyloid may also
      alter neurodegenerative processes that occur later in the disease.
      However, this is still to be determined.
  --  In an early finding reported at AAICAD 2010, a gene known as FTO,
      which appears to be correlated with obesity in humans, may also
      increase risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. When a person has
      certain variants of both FTO and a recognized Alzheimer's risk gene
      known as APOE, the risk of Alzheimer's could be doubled. FTO has
      previously been shown to affect body mass index (BMI) and the risk for
      diabetes. These vascular risk factors have also been associated with
      risk of Alzheimer's disease. However, the researchers found that the
      increased risk was independent of these traits, suggesting that there
      is a different mechanism by which FTO is associated with an increased
      risk for Alzheimer's. We need to see these results confirmed by other
      researchers. In fact, we need to know more, in general, about the
      genetics and other causes of Alzheimer's so that we have additional
      targets for therapies and preventions.
  --  Last minute scientific submissions to AAICAD 2010, known as "hot
      topics," suggested that (1) a newly-discovered risk gene for
      Alzheimer's may have early impact on memory skills and brain volume,
      (2) intranasal insulin may be beneficial in Alzheimer's, and (3) beta
      amyloid deposits in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease may
      take different shapes based on a known Alzheimer's risk gene.
      --  Two studies reported at AAICAD 2010 give us more information about
          the TOMM40 gene - a newly identified risk gene for Alzheimer's.
          They found that healthy, middle aged people who have the high risk
          version of TOMM40 (a) did worse on memory tests and (b) had
          reduced brain volume in two regions affected early in Alzheimer's.
      --  A short-term (4 months) clinical trial of intranasal insulin in
          Alzheimer's and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) showed
          statistically significant benefits on certain tests of memory and
          functioning, but no changes on others. In those who showed
          benefits on memory tests, there were also positive changes in
          Alzheimer's biomarkers in spinal fluid. Larger, longer-term
          studies are planned.
      --  Researchers using a new imaging tool suggest that there are
          different shapes of beta amyloid deposits in the Alzheimer brain
          based on which version a person has of a well-established
          Alzheimer's risk gene, known as APOE. This may be especially
          important because in some recent drug trials the therapy provided
          benefits in people who had certain types of APOE but were less
          effective or not effective in others.
  --  Two new studies from AAICAD 2010 suggest that having Alzheimer's
      disease may increase the risk of getting other potentially disabling
      health conditions, including seizures and anemia. Researchers in one
      study found that that the rate of seizures, per 1,000 people per year,
      in a study population that included 14,838 people with Alzheimer's
      aged 50 years or older and 14,838 randomly-selected, age- and
      sex-matched people without Alzheimer's, was 9.1 among patients with
      Alzheimer's compared with 1.4 for those without Alzheimer's - an
      incidence rate that was 6.4 times higher. In a second study of 1,112
      older adults (768 healthy controls, 133 MCI, 211 Alzheimer's), people
      with anemia were found to have an increased risk of Alzheimer's (odds
      ratio: 2.56). And people with Alzheimer's in the study were found to
      have an increased risk of being anemic (odds ratio: 2.61). If
      Alzheimer's also increases risk of other disabling conditions, then
      its impact may be more devastating than we've envisioned as the global
      population ages and as more countries become westernized in their
      habits and lifestyles.
  --  Racially and ethnically diverse older adults are one of the fastest
      growing population segments in the United States. New research
      presented at AAICAD 2010 revealed that older African-Americans and
      Latinos with significant cognitive impairment have a lower likelihood
      of nursing home placement and longer survival than White older adults
      in the study. These results have significant implications for
      caregiver burden and community resources. There is a greater than
      anticipated need for culturally-appropriate dementia care resources
      and home and community- based services for these populations.
      --  These findings are particularly compelling since African-Americans
          are about two times more likely and Latinos about one and one-half
          times more likely to develop Alzheimer's and dementia than Whites,
          according to the Alzheimer's Association's 2010 Alzheimer's
          Disease Facts and Figures report.
      --  Another study reported at AAICAD 2010 suggests that the
          bereavement process and mourning experience for Alzheimer
          caregivers after the death of their loved one varies greatly among
          different racial and ethnic groups.
      --  A third research report suggested that cultural and spiritual
          beliefs of African-Americans, American Indians and Whites greatly
          influence how long it takes for a family to seek a medical
          diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

  About AAICAD

The Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease (AAICAD) is the world's largest conference of its kind, bringing together researchers from around the world to report and discuss groundbreaking research and information on the cause, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. As a part of the Alzheimer's Association's research program, AAICAD serves as a catalyst for generating new knowledge about dementia and fostering a vital, collegial research community.

About the Alzheimer's Association

The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's. Visit or call 800-272-3900.

Source: Alzheimer's Association

CONTACT: Alzheimer's Association media line: +1-312-335-4078,, or ICAD 2010 press room, July 10-15: +1-808-792-6523

Web Site:

Posted: July 2010