Health and Aging

Alzheimer's Disease

NIH-funded researchers link epigenome changes to Alzheimer’s disease

Two new NIH-supported studies have shown that a person’s epigenome—the chemical modifications, or marks, on our DNA that turn gene activity on and off—may influence Alzheimer’s disease-related changes in the brain.  The two groups of researchers examined brain tissue donated by volunteers with Alzheimer’s and those free of the disease and linked a specific epigenome marker, DNA methylation, with Alzheimer’s pathology in the brain.

NIH-supported study shows promise for blood test for Alzheimer’s disease

Preliminary findings from a study by National Institute on Aging (NIA) scientists and colleagues showed that a blood test for Alzheimer’s-related proteins may accurately predict who might be at risk for the disease years before symptoms develop. The test measured the levels of several tau and amyloid proteins—the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease—in exosomes, microscopic organelles shed by brain cells.

Physical activity and Alzheimer’s-related hippocampal atrophy

Physical activity may help prevent atrophy of the hippocampus, a brain region important for learning and memory that often shrinks in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study that looked at the rate of atrophy over 18 months in cognitively normal older adults suggests that physical activity may help prevent or delay this Alzheimer’s-related change.

NIH funds next step of cutting-edge research into Alzheimer’s disease genome

Teams of scientists will use support from the National Institutes of Health to conduct research into the genetic underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease, analyzing how genome sequences—the order of chemical letters in a cell’s DNA—may contribute to increased risk or protect against the disease.

Landmark A4 Alzheimer's prevention trial now enrolling

A4 study logo -- 'The A4 Study' Healthy older adults age 65 to 85 with normal memory but who may be at risk of Alzheimer’s are invited to participate in a major clinical trial to prevent or delay the disease.

Gene risk factors for age-related brain disorders may affect immune system function

Scientists have discovered gene variants that affect the function of immune cells in young, healthy people. Interestingly, many of these same gene variants are known risk factors for diseases that occur later in life, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This linking of known gene risk factors for age-related neurological disorders to immune system functions, such as inflammation, offers new insights into Alzheimer’s and other disorders and may one day lead to promising therapies.

Alzheimer’s research news featured in spring 2014 Connections

The Spring 2014 issue of Connections, the e-newsletter from NIA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center, is now available!

In the latest issue:

Number of Alzheimer’s deaths found to be underreported

Official mortality figures may have substantially underreported deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease in 2010 show two recent studies supported in part by NIA. Underreporting of Alzheimer’s as a cause of death on death certificates is a well-known phenomenon. Some people with the disease never receive a diagnosis. Many others have dementia-related conditions, such as aspiration pneumonia, listed as the primary cause of death while the underlying cause, Alzheimer’s, is never reported.

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