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

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


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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New Way to Study Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 1, 2014

New Way to Study Alzheimer's Disease

This image illustrates neurons derived from stem cells of a living patient with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease. Neuronal protein is shown in green. Red depicts a subset of neurons affected in the disease process.

Using cells from blood relatives with familial Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has been able to study the underlying causes of AD and develop new ways to test treatment approaches.

People with familial AD have a genetic predisposition that leads to early development of the disease. More than 200 different mutations are associated with familial AD. Depending on the mutation, patients with familial AD can begin exhibiting symptoms as early as their 30s and 40s.

“Our research using human cells affected by AD has been limited to tissue samples from patients who have already died from the disease,” says Dr. Tracy L. Young-Pearse, corresponding author of the study recently published in Human Molecular Genetics and an investigator in the BWH Center for Neurologic Diseases. “AD is characterized by the presence of amyloid-beta protein plaques and Tau protein tangles, but observing living cell behavior and understanding the role of these abnormal protein deposits and tangles and their relationship has been challenging.”

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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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