NEURON AND SYNAPSE LOSS IS LIMITED IN ALZHEIMER’S
A new study our of McGill University in Canada suggests that, counter to the prevailing thinking, Alzheimer’s disease is not associated with significant death of neurons and synapses.
El Mestikawy, an associate professor at McGill University is quoted in ScienceDaily as saying that, “Much to our surprise, in studying the fate of eight neuronal and synaptic markers in our subjects' prefrontal cortices, we only observed very minor neuronal and synaptic losses. Our study therefore suggests that, contrary to what was believed, neuronal and synaptic loss is relatively limited in Alzheimer's disease. This is a radical change in thinking."
With dementia, neurons, synapses and glial cells apparently don’t die they just stop working very well. There is evidence from previous studies that diseased cells emit distress signals that cause neighboring cells to dysfunction, driving a negative cascade of failure. Massive dysfunction leads to the variety of symptoms associated with cognitive decline that progresses towards dementia.
The implication is that Alzheimer’s -- and possibly other neurodegenerative diseases --can be treated. If brain cells in an afflicted brain are alive but malfunctioning they can, theoretically, be repaired. The cause of their malfunction (toxins, chronic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, etc.) can be identified and removed. If enough malfunctioning brain cells can be repaired, the cycle of self-reinforcing decline that causes dementia may be halted or even reversed.
This reversal of dementia is the promise and hope of interventions like the Bredesen Protocol. It is also the rationale for stressing preventive. Don’t cause damage in the first place.
TRUST AT STAKE
There is a terrific article to be found on Bill Thomas’s blog site that argues that the “dual mission” of the Alzheimer’s Association (AA) is out of balance. The dual mission of the AA is “to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research and to enhance care and support for individuals, their families and caregivers.” Sounds great.
The problem, suggests Eilon Caspi, of Dementia Behavior Consulting, LLC, is that the overwhelming focus of energy and resources has been directed towards research. Support and care for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers has gotten the short end of the stick.
Much has been learned through the research on Alzheimer’s. But no “cure” has materialized in spite of billions spent by pharmacological researchers. Alzheimer’s has not been “eliminated” and millions are suffering the consequences. Little has been done to improve living conditions for people coping with dementia. Little has been done to relieve the burden of caregiving that falls largely to families and mostly on women.
The Alzheimer’s Association and NIH need to make a major course correction and bring their “dual mission” into balance. Continue vital research. We may find a cure or treatment somewhere down the road, in a decade or two. Let’s keep hoping and trying! But right now, start devoting more resources towards efforts that demonstrably improve people’s lives. Put resources and energy into efforts that target the root causes of the problem.
FAST FOOD MAY CAUSE CHRONIC INFLAMMATION
The body’s immune system responds to fast food as though it were an invasion of harmful bacteria. Upon detecting fast food the body recruits a large and powerful army to combat the noxious ingredients.
Researchers at the Life & Medical Sciences Institute at the University of Bonn found that when mice were fed a fast food diet, there was an oversized immune response. What’s more, the invasion of fast food caused lasting changes in the expression of genes that regulate the immune response, making them more easily expressed.
A localized immune response, such as swelling around a cut, helps speed recovery. But, a chronic, immune response that causes inflammation throughout the body is quite harmful and has been implicated as a major contributor to cognitive decline and dementia.
The researchers found that the fast food diet caused epigenetic changes that remained even when they switched the mice back to a healthier diet. Dr. Eicke Latz, Director of the Institute for Innate Immunity at the University of Boon explained that, “the immune system consequently reacts even to small stimuli with stronger inflammatory responses. So it is quite possible that a fast food diet contributes to the risk of dementia by changing the genetic regulation of the immune response.
The message seems clear: one way to lower your risk of cognitive decline and dementia is to avoid fast food and package foods. They mess up your immune system and cause chronic inflammation.
University of Bonn. "Fast food makes the immune system more aggressive in the long term: Study shows that even after a change to a healthy diet, the body's defenses remain hyperactive." ScienceDaily, 11 January 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180111141637.htm>.
WINE CLEANS THE BRAIN
The evidence that consumption of wine and alcohol – IN MODERATION – can be good for the brain has been around for a while. But how does brain protect the brain? The usual explanation is that wine contains substances like flavonoids or resveratrol that act as antioxidants. These substances found in wine help clean up free radicals and, thereby diminish the damage these molecules wreak on the brain.
Recently, Maiken Nedergaard and her team at the Center for Translational Neuromedicine and the University of Rochester Medical Center have added to our understanding of the protective mechanisms of wine. Wine appears to improve the function of the brain’s ”glymphatic system.”
Nedergaard was the first researcher to describe the “glymphatic system.” It is a unique process that enables the brain to flush metabolic waste material out of the brain, usually during deep sleep. Nedergaard’s new research showed that low levels of alcohol (2 ½ drinks per day) reduced inflammation in the brain and made the glymphatic system more efficient at flushing waste (like nasty plaques and tangles) out of the brain.
Nedergaard also demonstrated that these benefits were lost, and actually reversed, with the consumption of high levels of alcohol. Prolonged and excessive use of alcohol creates chronic inflammation in brain cells called astrocytes that help regulate the glymphatic system. So, impaired astrocytes results in an impaired glymphatic system. The brain’s garbage disposal mechanism falters and it begins to fill up with dangerous gunk.
So, the trick to cleaning out the brain seems to be to drink a little bit of wine a couple of hours before bedtime. Then, get a good night’s sleep and let the glymphatic system perform its garbage disposal duties.