Monday, September 09, 2013

Encouraging new treatment for dementia is emerging

Some of my friends email me or post to me on Facebook when they see a science article talking about Alzheimer's or dementia, as everyone knows this is the cause nearest to my heart.  I do read them all.  Some I just shrug and say "yeah maybe" or "you wish" but this one...well, this one seems promising.
I'll let the first paragraph of the article speak for itself:

The first experimental drug to boost brain synapses lost in Alzheimer’s disease has been developed by researchers at Sanford-Burnham. The drug, called NitroMemantine, combines two FDA-approved medicines to stop the destructive cascade of changes in the brain that destroys the connections between neurons, leading to memory loss and cognitive decline.

To me, that means that they shouldn't have to get FDA approval, right?  This could be an off-label usage?  I'm trying to understand how the drugs are being combined.  I'm thinking of PhenFen, that diet drug that was two other drugs combined. (And it ended up killing people, didn't it? Maybe that's a bad example...)

The decade-long study...shows that NitroMemantine can restore synapses, representing the connections between nerve cells (neurons) that have been lost during the progression of Alzheimer’s in the brain.

That's A LOT to promise.   And they aren't done promising yet.  They are abandoing the old method of looking at the "amyloid beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles" (what the drug my dad tested was looking at) in favor of something different.

To try to dumb down the science in the article a bit, the researchers found that the plaques didn't harm the neurons directly, but they did cause an overabundance of a chemical (glutamate) to be released, and that overabundance is what harmed the neurons.  If I understand it correctly, it seems to burn out the "locks" (receptors) on the neurons that glutamate is the "key" to.  A drug called Metamine can target those receptors, but it turns out that an overdose of glutamate also causes the receptors to repel the Metamine, meaning it's not as effective as it should be.  The researchers also discovered that part of the nitroglycerine molecule (the heart drug) can also attach to that receptor.  Working together, the piece of nitro can allow the metamine to bond to the receptor and keep it from burning out.

That would be good enough, to say that it would stop dementia in its tracks.  Have your loved one with a bit of impairment, maybe you have to drive him around or make a picture menu for the remote controls of the house, but better than the slow slide into oblivion that dementia offers now, right?

But wait, there's more.

By shutting down hyperactive eNMDA receptors on diseased neurons, NitroMemantine restores synapses between those neurons. “We show in this paper that memantine’s ability to protect synapses is limited,” (Stuart A) Lipton (MD, PhD) said, “but NitroMemantine brings the number of synapses all the way back to normal within a few months of treatment in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the new drug really starts to work within hours.” 

Yes, it RESTORE NEURONS TO NORMAL.  In mice for now.  

Screenprint of original article

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Silver alert for missing man brings back memories

Friday everyone around here was posting on FB that an elderly man, age 67, was missing from Southington, CT, a town about 20 miles away.

(Harold) Smith's family members are not sure what he was wearing when he left home, but he almost always wears black sneakers and white socks, according to police.
Smith cannot read or write, but he does recognize his name, according to police, and frequents the downtown Southington area and Plantsville Center section of Southington.

Although no where does the article say he has dementia, from living with a dad and aunt, I can read between the lines. Earlier versions of the article described him as very "approachable" but for some reason that's left out of this one.
I was ready to drive to Southington myself and start looking for him.  He's the same age as my dad was when he died and in the picture he's wearing a green shirt.  Brought back so many memories of the two times my dad wandered off and how both times it wasn't the cops who found him but ordinary people who were looking like my mom's neighbors.
It made me sad that he had been missing since Wednesday and people only started posting his picture on Friday night.  Maybe they were hoping he'd turn up.  Maybe his family was ashamed.  I don't know.
Yesterday I was checking on and off all day to see if he'd been found and finally the news came that he was okay.  It's been so warm, which is just as worrisome as the freezing cold day my dad took off.  I was thinking they'd find him in a ditch or something awful.

Harold Smith, 65, [sic] was found in the area of Blacks Road in Cheshire, after he approached a farm worker on Sunny Acres Farm. He told the worker that he had run away from home.... Smith told police that he left home and walked down the linear trail to Cheshire. He left the trail and then walked down Route 10 until he reached Blacks Road and entered a field on the Sunny Acre Farm. Smith found an unsecured abandoned vehicle and sought shelter inside it for three days. He then approached the farm worker after seeing him in the field. 

Looking at a map, it seems like he wandered at least 5 miles (by normal roads) into the next town.  I can only imagine his confusion as he sat in some junky old car for three days.  Was he angry at his family, hence the running away? 
I hope the Smith family hugged him and loved him when he was returned to them and they didn't yell at him.  I also hope they investigate some kind of GPS system for tracking him and continue to let him take walks, as it seems like he likes to do.

full copy of missing article
full copy of found article