Hope for Alzheimer’s Disease: WashU researchers see solution on horizon

By

June 25, 2024

This article was first published in Laude News on June 17, 2024

I would say it’s the beginning of the end,” says Dr. Jorge Llibre-Guerra, an assistant professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis. He’s talking about recent advances in Alzheimer’s disease research that are bringing clinicians and scientists closer to discovering ways to prevent this common form of dementia. “We’re closer than ever to having a solution. But we are just at the beginning of finding that solution.”

Llibre-Guerra and his colleagues at Washington University’s Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center are making strides in understanding the disease’s causes, development, chemical blood markers and treatments. Yet much work remains, and clinical trials are underway.


June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, bringing a spotlight to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia that currently affect more than 55 million people worldwide, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Yet despite the attention given to Alzheimer’s disease and the many educational resources available for individuals,
many misconceptions remain.

For example, little to no scientific evidence exists to support many of the rumorsabout the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. The number one risk factor known to
contribute to the disease’s onset is something no one can avoid: aging. However, researchers haven’t found any conclusive evidence that aluminum, tooth fillings, statin medications or vaccinations contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

Fears about aluminum have persisted for years, but the studies cited by some proponents of an aluminum-free life were done in the 1960s and ’70s, says Dr. Beau Ances, the Daniel J. Brennan MD Professor of Neurology at Washington University. “They gave high concentrations of aluminum to animals, and then [the animals] developed some kinds of memory issues,” he says. "However, people who have very high concentrations of aluminum don't develop Alzheimer's disease, so it is proposed
to be a link, but there really hasn't been shown definitive evidence that it causes significant changes." He adds that the kidneys are capable of removing the
insignificant levels of aluminum the average person may absorb from cookware, drinking water or deodorant.

Similarly, no research supports the assertion that statin medications or vaccines contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, both may have a protective effect, but more
research is needed. “We don't have the one smoking gun, and it's probably a combination of factors,” Ances says. Current studies are exploring the potential role
of the gut microbiome and inflammation on Alzheimer’s disease risk.


Researchers are also coming closer to developing a diagnostic test based on blood biomarkers that could identify disease development many years before symptoms
appear. And newer medications are succeeding in slowing the disease by sweeping the brain of the disease’s telltale amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles when
administered to those with mild cognitive impairment.

“Many of us in the field, and I think pretty much all the folks here at Washington University, think that this is enough of a benefit to offer [this medication] to people,”
says Dr. Joy Snider, professor of neurology. “We’re very excited that it does change the underlying brain disease, but we also appreciate that it's not a cure. I think we're
going to see more medications in the next five to 10 years, and maybe eventually we’ll have a combination of medications that can really stop this disease from getting
worse, which is what we're all after.”


In the meantime, the physicians agree: A healthy lifestyle is your best defense. Exercise regularly, eat a diet rich in plants and whole grains, manage stress, get
regular sleep, and stay socially and mentally active as you age. If you are concerned about noticeable memory changes, talk to your primary-care physician.


Alzheimer’s Association, alz.org
Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center, knightadrc.wustl.edu

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Hope for Alzheimer’s Disease: WashU researchers see solution on horizon

By

This article was first published in Laude News on June 17, 2024

I would say it’s the beginning of the end,” says Dr. Jorge Llibre-Guerra, an assistant professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis. He’s talking about recent advances in Alzheimer’s disease research that are bringing clinicians and scientists closer to discovering ways to prevent this common form of dementia. “We’re closer than ever to having a solution. But we are just at the beginning of finding that solution.”

Llibre-Guerra and his colleagues at Washington University’s Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center are making strides in understanding the disease’s causes, development, chemical blood markers and treatments. Yet much work remains, and clinical trials are underway.


June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, bringing a spotlight to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia that currently affect more than 55 million people worldwide, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Yet despite the attention given to Alzheimer’s disease and the many educational resources available for individuals,
many misconceptions remain.

For example, little to no scientific evidence exists to support many of the rumorsabout the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. The number one risk factor known to
contribute to the disease’s onset is something no one can avoid: aging. However, researchers haven’t found any conclusive evidence that aluminum, tooth fillings, statin medications or vaccinations contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

Fears about aluminum have persisted for years, but the studies cited by some proponents of an aluminum-free life were done in the 1960s and ’70s, says Dr. Beau Ances, the Daniel J. Brennan MD Professor of Neurology at Washington University. “They gave high concentrations of aluminum to animals, and then [the animals] developed some kinds of memory issues,” he says. "However, people who have very high concentrations of aluminum don't develop Alzheimer's disease, so it is proposed
to be a link, but there really hasn't been shown definitive evidence that it causes significant changes." He adds that the kidneys are capable of removing the
insignificant levels of aluminum the average person may absorb from cookware, drinking water or deodorant.

Similarly, no research supports the assertion that statin medications or vaccines contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, both may have a protective effect, but more
research is needed. “We don't have the one smoking gun, and it's probably a combination of factors,” Ances says. Current studies are exploring the potential role
of the gut microbiome and inflammation on Alzheimer’s disease risk.


Researchers are also coming closer to developing a diagnostic test based on blood biomarkers that could identify disease development many years before symptoms
appear. And newer medications are succeeding in slowing the disease by sweeping the brain of the disease’s telltale amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles when
administered to those with mild cognitive impairment.

“Many of us in the field, and I think pretty much all the folks here at Washington University, think that this is enough of a benefit to offer [this medication] to people,”
says Dr. Joy Snider, professor of neurology. “We’re very excited that it does change the underlying brain disease, but we also appreciate that it's not a cure. I think we're
going to see more medications in the next five to 10 years, and maybe eventually we’ll have a combination of medications that can really stop this disease from getting
worse, which is what we're all after.”


In the meantime, the physicians agree: A healthy lifestyle is your best defense. Exercise regularly, eat a diet rich in plants and whole grains, manage stress, get
regular sleep, and stay socially and mentally active as you age. If you are concerned about noticeable memory changes, talk to your primary-care physician.


Alzheimer’s Association, alz.org
Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center, knightadrc.wustl.edu

No items found.
01

photo gallery

02

TESTIMONIES

01

No items found.

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