Select Our Next BRIght Futures Prize Winner!

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 14, 2016

Would you like to choose the direction of medical research? Select our next BRIght Futures Prize winner! The BRIght Futures Prizes support investigators across the Brigham Research Institute (BRI) as they work to answer challenging questions and solve grand problems in medicine. This year’s finalists, all Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers and clinicians, were selected through a rigorous two-step scientific review process. Their projects include an innovative home hospital concept, a new way to predict and treat Alzheimer’s disease, and a novel ultrasound device for ulcerative colitis.

Your vote will help decide which of this year’s three finalists will receive the $100,000 research prize. To participate, watch the video below, read the Q&A with the finalists, and then cast your vote. The winner will be announced on November 10, 2016 at Discover Brigham. This event is free and open to the public. All are welcome to attend!

 

 

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Alzheimer’s Disease Research – Targeting Amyloid Beta Protein

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 21, 2015

Development of plaques and tangles in the brain lead to the characteristic Alzheimer’s disease symptoms of memory loss and cognitive decline.

Contributor: Dennis Selkoe MD, Co-Director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the Vincent and Stella Coates Professor of Neurologic Diseases in the Department of Neurology at Harvard Medical School.

Long before a person begins to exhibit Alzheimer’s disease symptoms, he or she will build up plaques in the brain composed of the amyloid beta protein. Shortly after the initial development of plaques, tangles, made up of the tau protein, also will build up in the brain. The plaques and tangles together mount up over decades, leading to a short-circuiting of nerve cells in the brain and the characteristic Alzheimer’s disease symptoms of memory loss and cognitive decline.

Studying the Role of Amyloid Beta Protein

Since the 1980s, Dr. Selkoe and his colleagues have been gathering data to support the Amyloid Hypothesis, in which he proposed that Alzheimer’s disease begins with the build-up of amyloid beta protein in “thinking regions” of the brain.

In 1992, Dr. Selkoe and colleagues made a surprising discovery – the amyloid beta protein is made by everyone throughout life. This discovery raised the question – why doesn’t everyone get Alzheimer’s disease? BWH researchers found that certain genetic and environmental factors can make some people susceptible to greater amyloid buildup and the subsequent development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently, several pharmaceutical companies are developing treatments which  use antibodies that target amyloid beta protein in the brain. Promising clinical trial results  of these antibodies suggest that an anti-amyloid treatment for Alzheimer’s disease may be available to patients within a few years.Researchers also are studying whether earlier treatment with anti-amyloid antibodies and other agents may help slow or even halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease before patients become symptomatic.

Can Alzheimer’s Disease be Prevented?

The Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s (A4) Study is the first prevention trial for Alzheimer’s disease. The A4 Study, created and led by Reisa Sperling, MD, Director of the BWH Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment (CART), is currently enrolling patients at many sites in the U.S., Australia, and Canada. These still cognitively normal subjects at risk for AD will be followed over years to see whether an anti-amyloid antibody can prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease in patients who show evidence of amyloid beta protein in their brains on a PET scan, but who are not yet experiencing Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

In the following video, Dr. Selkoe describes progress on research to develop and characterize treatments for Alzheimer’s disease that target the amyloid beta protein:


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– Jamie R.

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Don’t Leave Women’s Health to Chance

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 30, 2015

Dr. Paula Johnson

The author of today’s post is Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH, Executive Director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Did you know that, 20 years ago, women and minorities were not routinely included in federally funded clinical trials? That changed in 1993 when President Bill Clinton signed into law the historic NIH Revitalization Act, making inclusion of women in health research a national priority.

Today, we know that women are different from men down to the cellular and molecular level. We see these differences across all organ systems — from our hearts to our joints, lungs, and brains. The Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is dedicated to exploring and discovering why these differences occur, and translating those differences into clinical care. However, roadblocks remain in research and clinical care. Here are just a few examples:

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Healthy Brain Aging – What Can You Expect?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 12, 2015

Normal changes in cognition won’t affect someone’s ability to remain independent and socially active.

It’s common for people over the age of 50 to worry about a decline in their cognitive abilities. Some studies suggest that as many as 80 percent of people over the age of 50 have these types of concerns.

What’s important to understand is that normal changes in cognition, such as taking longer to retrieve information or solve a problem, won’t affect someone’s ability to remain independent and socially active. Changes in cognition are concerning when individuals become increasingly dependent on others to manage their daily living activities as they get older.

Kirk Daffner, MD, Chief, Division of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and the J. David and Virginia Wimberly Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, explains what changes people can expect in their cognitive abilities as a normal part of aging. He also outlines steps people can take to promote and preserve brain health throughout life.

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Alzheimer’s Disease: Studying a Treatment while the Mind is Still Bright

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 13, 2014

Alzheimer's

The number of Alzheimer’s patients is likely to triple in the next 20-30 years, as people are living longer lives.

It is estimated that some 30 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease worldwide. In the United States, over five million Americans, or one in nine, suffer from dementia in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Estimates say that the number of Alzheimer’s patients is likely to triple in the next 20-30 years, as people are living longer lives.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that occurs when nerve cells in the brain die. The disease can cause impaired memory, confusion, personality and behavior changes, impaired judgment, and impaired communication. Dr. Reisa Sperling, Director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) calls it the “epidemic of Alzheimer’s.”

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A Quest to Preserve Memories: Alzheimer’s Research

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 17, 2013

In observance of World Alzheimer’s Month, we’ve gathered recent posts about the work of our physicians who are leading research to understand and develop new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

 

New Approaches for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Reisa Sperling believes that earlier treatment, prior to development of symptoms, is key to helping people with Alzheimer’s disease. This approach is consistent with how we’ve made progress against other diseases, such as reducing cholesterol to prevent heart disease. Learn how Dr. Sperling is applying this approach to Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Genetic Culprit Identified in Progression of Alzheimer’s

Thanks to some intercontinental teamwork, researchers have identified a gene that may help explain why certain Alzheimer’s disease patients experience a more rapid decline in cognitive (thinking) abilities.

 

 

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Genetic Culprit Identified in Progression of Alzheimer’s

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 15, 2013

Does genetics play a role in the varying rates of cognitive decline among Alzheimer's patients?

Thanks to some intercontinental teamwork, researchers have identified a gene that may help explain why certain Alzheimer’s disease patients experience a more rapid decline in cognitive (thinking) abilities.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) medical geneticist Dr. Robert C. Green first recognized that there may be a genetic explanation for why cognitive decline rates vary widely among Alzheimer’s disease patients after analyzing data from a large treatment trial. Even after screening out individuals with vascular disease and other medical conditions known to influence cognition, Dr. Green found that there was still significant variability in the rate of decline among remaining participants.

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Concerns about Memory Loss May Identify Alzheimer’s Risk

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 30, 2013

What's the difference between an attention lapse and memory loss?

Have you ever had trouble remembering the names of unfamiliar people? Those of us in middle age and beyond may wonder if this is a warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Rebecca Amariglio, from the Department of Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), offers some insight into the differences between lapses of attention, a normal part of aging, and memory loss, a sign of something more serious.

“Lapses of attention include walking into a room and forgetting why you walked in. This is likely a part of normal aging. Memory loss is categorized as a decline in the ability to recall conversations, remember appointments, or remember recent events,” notes Dr. Amariglio. Memory loss can also be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Food for Thought: Learning New Activities May Delay Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 1, 2013

Keeping your mind active can help delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Keeping your mind active, exercising, and spending social time with family and friends have been suggested as ways to help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The results of a new study led by Dr. Dennis Selkoe, co-director of the Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, now provide scientific reasons for why a mentally stimulating environment, which includes learning new activities, may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease occurs when a protein called amyloid beta accumulates and forms plaques in the brain. Amyloid beta build-up is thought to cause memory problems by interfering with brain activity that occurs in the synapses, the spaces between nerve cells that allow communication of information. This interference may lead to a decline in a person’s memory, attention, and the ability to learn, understand, and process information.

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When Memory Loss Is Cause for Concern

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 11, 2012

Losing your keys, forgetting a name, or missing an appointment—it happens to all of us and it can happen more frequently as we get older.  A certain amount of memory loss is normal as we age but some patients can experience memory loss that is greater than expected. These patients may be suffering from a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI).  Patients with MCI can live independently, unlike patients with dementia (severe loss of mental function), however, medical researchers are learning that MCI may be a warning sign of more serious illness.

Memory loss is normal as we age but sometimes it can indicate serious illness.

Several studies have found that patients with MCI have an increased risk of developing dementia.  Nearly 60% of patients with MCI develop Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.  After being diagnosed with MCI, through a series of memory tests, patients can undergo genetic evaluation and specialized exams estimate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease; however, it can be difficult for doctors to easily explain the test results to patients and their families.

Recently, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital announced a new study called the Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer’s Disease Study (REVEAL).  The study’s goal is to learn how to communicate the results of genetic testing and Alzheimer’s risk estimates to MCI patients and their families so that they can gain a better understanding of what it means to have MCI, what are the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and how to cope with problems related to memory loss.

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