Thursday, December 21, 2006

114 medical news round-up--lots o' new info!

One thing I didn't mention in my last post. When my mom finally got home from the hospital, my dad just kept hugging her and wouldn't let her go. Not like a husband who loves and misses his beloved wife, but like a child who lost his mother. So sad. He understands that he is completely dependent on her. And "that girl" of course, whoever she is.

New chemical gives insight into Alzheimer's
A chemical designed by doctors in Los Angeles could give unprecedented insight into the ravages of Alzheimer's disease and provide a new way to test for treatments....Previously the only way to determine if a person suffers from the devastating brain ailment has been to remove some brain tissue or with an autopsy.
The new study by doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles, is part of a larger quest to find a better method to diagnose the condition using tracers that can be detected with a positron emission tomography, or PET, scan.
The chemical, known as FDDNP, attaches to the abnormal clumps of proteins called amyloid plaques and tau tangles that develop in Alzheimer's sufferers and inhibit messages being processed by the brain.....
It was 98 percent accurate in determining the difference between Alzheimer's and mild cognitive impairment.That was far better than the 87 percent success rate for a PET scan test that measured sugar metabolism in the brain, and the 62 percent accuracy rate when doctors used a magnetic resonance imaging scan to gauge brain deterioration....
Finding an easier way to track brain deterioration not only would help doctors diagnose the disease, it could become easier to assess experimental Alzheimer's treatments, as researchers try to prevent the accumulation of plaques and tangles, or to reduce them if they accumulate.
That's exactly what the study my dad's in is trying to do. Too bad this technology wasn't already available. They could be doing this instead of all those MRI's and mental tests. What a great boon this will be both to research and to those fearing they have the disease.

Possible Alzheimer's fingerprint found
Scientists appear to have found a fingerprint of Alzheimer's disease lurking in patients' spinal fluid, a step toward a long-awaited test for the memory-robbing disease that today can be diagnosed definitively only at autopsy. Researchers ... discovered a pattern of 23 proteins floating in spinal fluid that, in very preliminary testing, seems to identify Alzheimer's — not perfectly, but with pretty good accuracy.
Far more research is needed before doctors could try spinal-tap tests in people worried they have Alzheimer's, specialists caution....
Scientists believe that Alzheimer's begins its insidious brain attack years, even decades, before forgetfulness appears — and if so, there should be evidence of those changes in the spinal fluid.

It's great that everyone's going for early diagnosis....but there's still no damn cure, still no REAL treatment that halts the progress or reverses the damage.

And like a wish granted, this article was posted in the last few minutes, as I wrote:
Potential Alzheimer's Disease Treatment Discovered
An antibody with the potential to block production of the brain chemical linked to Alzheimer's disease has been developed by researchers at Cardiff University in Wales, UK. The research is published today in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease... The results of the study show that it is possible to decrease production of a small protein called *-amyloid (A*), which is believed to
be the main cause of the disease. Deposits of A* build up in the brain, preventing it from functioning properly. The team has developed an antibody that binds to a naturally occurring
protein in the brain, amyloid precursor protein (APP), preventing the production of A*. The antibody blocks the access to APP of an enzyme, b-secretase, crucial for the formation of Ab....
(I)t is possible that (this) antibody could be used as a preventative treatment to protect people at high risk of Alzheimer's Disease through their family history or other factors... The team believes that a form of the antibody could be used as a treatment to reduce A* build-up in the brain, improving the patient's memory and quality of life.
Some scary science stuff in there (well, not scary, just unknown to me). But it sounds interesting. I wonder if the "vaccine" they pour into my dad's veins works on the same principle?

Intellectual activity and not a pill, best therapy for Alzheimer's
Modest neuroprotective effects caused by education and intellectual activity at the cellular level may lead to dramatic reductions in the number of cases of Alzheimer's....The study suggests that the most effective neuroprotective therapy for Alzheimer's disease may be education and intellectual activity, and not a pill.
The researchers say that mounting evidence accumulated over the last few years support the notion that intellectual activity increases what neuroscientists call "the cognitive reserve".
According to the model, a mere five per cent increase in the cognitive reserve in the general population may prevent one third of Alzheimer's cases.
So all those dumb matching and video games I play might someday save my brain? All the reading and writing and art? God, I hope so.

S. Korean scientists find key factor in formation of Alzheimer's

A team of South Korean scientists said Wednesday they have discovered a crucial factor in the formation of Alzheimer's disease, a finding likely to help develop a treatment for the neuro-degenerative disorder...The team...discovered that the density of PIP2, a type of an organic compound forming the base of brain cells, plays a crucial part in the inherited form of the disease....The familial type is known to be formed from an overflow of proteins called beta amyloid in brain cells among people with mutated presenilin, another protein. However, scientists in the past could not find the correlation between the two proteins.
The team discovered that the density of PIP2 plays a key role in controlling the level of the two proteins, and that mutations of presenilin led to an increase in PIP2 density, while an artificial increase in the PIP2 density caused a fall in beta amyloids...(A) cure for the disease could be produced when and if we figure out how to control the concentration of PIP2.
More science. I wish I understood it better.

Testosterone 'could prevent' Alzheimer's
Men with higher levels of the hormone testosterone could be more resistant to Alzheimer's disease, a new study claims.
US scientists say they have discovered a direct link between a lack of the male hormone and the onset of similar neurodegenerative diseases in mice.
That's pretty straight forward. And testosterone is already an approved drug. What's the hold-up? It can't HURT can it?

Pomegranate Juice May Thwart Onset of Alzheimer's
If you opt for a glass of pomegranate juice, you may be staving off Alzheimer's disease...pomegranates, when compared to other fruits and vegetables, pack notably high levels of polyphenols. Polyphenols, according to researchers, are one of many antioxidants known to neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals, which attack healthy human cells and cause them to mutate into cancer cells. Free radicals have also been linked to triggering arthritis, atherosclerosis, diabetes, premature aging, and Alzheimer's disease.

Sounds good...and pomegranate juice is yummy enough...

Stem cell Alzheimer's treatment discovered
Scientists have discovered a new treatment for people suffering from diseases including Alzheimer's, dementia and depression involving stimulating the brain to produce more nerve cells.
Starts out good, but then it never really says anything, including how stem cells can help. I'm leaving it in because it's Yule and I feel generous.

Anyway, that's all news from the last COUPLE of days. Amazing.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

113 "what are you doing here?"

My dad ended up having to go to the doctor and get an antibiotic for his hand. It's still a little painful and there's quite a scab there.
He can be so funny. Sunday night we got to my grandmother's at the same time. I got out of the car and walked over to their car and my father says (I kid you not), "Hi! What are you doing here?" Like I don't come there every week.
Yesterday afternoon my mom called me to say my grandmother needed to go to the hospital and I had to go dad-sit. So I went over there after work. My mom had left me a note telling me what to cook for supper, what time to have tea, and what time to let the dog out to pee.
My father comes in and starts talking to me. Then he says "there's a girl coming." I replied, "that's me." But obviously that was too confusing for him. I made supper and set the table for two. My dad carried the food to the table and put it right next to his plate and said, "I guess it's just me." I sat down across from him and he looked at me and said "You're eating too?"
I went downstairs to check my email on their computer. He followed me. He was very upset that I didn't have my shoes on. Why I need shoes on to walk downstairs to a finished basement (where I used to LIVE) is beyond me. He started showing me all the pictures he'd hung on the walls, some of which have been there for years. Then he showed me a picture I drew as a child, of my guinea pig and my cat. I said, "I drew that. It's Bubbles and Nippy." He replied, in Bob-Speak, that he thought the other one drew it. Not sure who the other one is, I'm an only child. Then again, I'm no longer "the girl" since she was supposed to come over and I showed up.
Oh? Grandma? She had a muscle spasm in her back. Told my mother she had a heart attack. My father REALLY had a heart attack and he told my mother he was just tired.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

112 Father-biter cat, take 2

Last night I had a lovely dinner with a friend of mine. We're writing a book together and it was our first meeting to discuss it. As soon as I got home, I prepared to take a shower. My clothes were already in the washer (which wasn't turned on yet, thank god) when the phone rang. It was my mom. She said my father got attacked by the cat again and she couldn't stop the bleeding and she was trying to get him to go to the hospital.
At least this time I had a choice of clothing, and I pulled a (not clean) black t-shirt from the laundry pile rather than the lovely green shirt I'd had on. I learned the hard way when I had a lavender t-shirt on and the cat clawed my dad in June and the shirt was ruined by blood. My husband drove me to my parent's house.
My dad had a thick gauze pad strapped to the meaty part of his hand, beneath his thumb, and a wet dishtowel wrapped around that. He didn't want to go to the hospital. When I re-wrapped the dishtowel, he said to me, "you do this too?" and I said "Yes, I do everything, come on, we're going." It took a while to get him outside. I sat in the backseat applying pressure to his hand. The hospital is only 1 town away (maybe 15 minutes) but he had bled through the towel by the time we got there, and I had the full story.
Jasper was outside. The white cat came into the yard. Now the white cat is a very sad story. It belonged to our lovely neighbor who died many years ago. Her son lives right across the street but he didn't take the cat in. He basically just threw it away. The new owners of the house didn't adopt it (my friend adopted the cat which came with her house; people do it) and the cat's been living outside, going feral, for years. It looks awful and it's pitiful. I thought it was a brown cat, but it's a filthy white cat. It's white again after it rains. How sad is that?
Anyway, the white cat came into the yard. My father rushed to "save" Jasper (who now attacks the dog--he doesn't need saving from another cat, except maybe from the diseases it carries). Jasper freaked out and bit my dad. This was around 3:00. My mom bandaged it up, it seemed fine. They had dinner and she went to the store for more first aid supplies. When she came home, my father had taken off the bandage for whatever reason and was bleeding all over. That's when she called me.
He's on blood thinners & anti-clot meds because of the stent (whatever it's called) and I think that's the problem.
All the way to the hospital he was alternating between incoherent stories of the two cats, of how they tried to "kill" him in Hartford, apologizing for being a bother, and begging us not to take him to Hartford Hospital.
In the waiting room, a nurse re-wrapped his hand. Blood had dripped from the towel all over his pants. His hands were covered in it. Mine too. She had no sooner finished the temporary gauze wrapping then it flushed red. I finally saw the bite, and it was clearly a bite. One puncture looked sealed, but the other was in a more star-like shape and keep oozing very dark blood.
Because of his Alzheimer's, they got us into a room quickly (and it was a room, not just a curtain alcove) and my dad refused to get into the bed, terrified that we'd leave him. We put the animal planet on for him and got him to sit in the bed and keep his hand up over his heart. He kept asking to go home. It was very sad.
Of course hospitals are like airports. Hurry up and get there, and then wait.
Eventually a doctor came. He said he was an evaluation doctor, or something like that. The admitting nurse had said he needed stitches but this guy didn't agree. He put a cloth mesh across the cut and re-wrapped it, showing me how so I could re-do it the next day (today) and sent us home. We were only there about 90 minutes. Anyone who's been to the ER knows 90 minutes is amazingly short.
The doctor also declined to put him on antibiotics (except for the cream on his hand). When I go over there today, this thing better not spurt at me.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

111 Alzheimer's in cats

Who knew? A recent study shows that our feline friends also get Alzheimer's.
I have to wonder HOW you would know your cat had AD. With my dad (who is NOT a cat) it started with his posture, then his language skills. I only have one cat left, who is 13 and mopey over the loss of his best friend, and he's also got a cold right now. I can't imagine how I'd figure out if he had dementia as well. My dad doesn't forget things that are long-term (like where he lives, that my mom and I are important people to him). My cat doesn't really know much. He knows where his food bowl is, where his poop box is, and all the soft places to sleep. And he knows us, of course. I wish the article went into more details about the symptoms. Not that I think my cat is demented (well, not in an Alzheimer's way, anyway), but what if he was? Then what?
Cats can develop a feline form of Alzheimer's disease, say U.K. and U.S. researchers who identified a protein that can build up in brain nerve cells and cause mental deterioration. ... We've known for a long time that cats develop dementia, but this study tells us that the cat's neural system is being compromised in a similar fashion to that we see in human Alzheimer's sufferers. ... The shorter life span of a cat, compared to humans, allows researchers to more rapidly assess the effects of diet, high blood pressure, and prescribed drugs on the course of the disease. However, we also need to understand more about our geriatric cats for their own benefit, so we can slow down the degeneration the disease brings and keep them as happy cats for as long as possible... Like humans, pet cats have a longer life expectancy than they used to, which means they have a greater likelihood of developing dementia.
Recent studies suggest that 28 percent of pet cats aged 11-14 years develop at least one old-age related behavior problem, and this increases to more than 50 percent for cats over the age of 15.
My cat is 13 and right now his only problem is his cold, which the vet said is viral since it reoccurs periodically and goes away on its own.
(cross posted to my pets blog)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

110 Intruder alert and melt-down

Last Friday night I took a shower at my parents' because I had put fresh sealant in my ever-leaking tub. I left my towel, soap, shampoo, body scrub, and loofah gloves on the sink in their bathroom and went into the dining room to work on the puzzle (still Noah's Ark). It was really windy and the wind was scaring the dog who kept barking. The dog went running into the bathroom barking and then my dad went in there. He came out whispering and hunched over, saying that someone was out there. My mother went into the bathroom and looked out the window. No one. In a normal tone of voice, she told him no one was there. He got very angry, slamming his hand like a karate chop into the table, whispering "yes there is I'll prove it". He then went into the bathroom and came out with my wet towel as "proof" someone was in the house.
(I can't make this stuff up, you know.)
My mom said that it was my towel. She pointed at me, sitting there with wet hair, as proof. He couldn't understand. She took the towel and put it back into the bathroom. A little while later he went into the bathroom and came out with something else of mine, saying "who's here? whose stuff is this?" We could NOT get it through his head that it was MY stuff and there was no intruder. It wasn't like I was hiding or anything, I was sitting right across the table from him.
The dog was really scared of the wind and he kept barking and barking and my dad started hitting the dog with his hat (not hard, more like swatting) so I had to rescue Ace and hold him, because if I put him on the chair he'd jump off and we don't like him to jump onto the hard floor (he has a bad leg). Have you ever tried to do a puzzle while holding a 16 pound dog?
This morning my mom called and said my dad had a melt-down in Target. She doesn't really know what happened. She thinks maybe he thought they were going to Yale (same highway, same direction). He didn't want to go inside the building, then once inside he got very agitated and loud, started yelling, people were looking and pointing, and she had to bring him home since it's too cold to sit in the car. She thinks he's upset enough to take off, so she doesn't want to leave him home alone. Thus I am drafted to Dad-sit tonight.