Thursday, January 31, 2008

168 dead end for Alzheimer's research

This new study shows that plaque dissolving medicines not only don't work, they may make things worse.
The study my dad was in involved dissolving plaque and making new plaque not stick, and we had been told it was promising and would be available to the general public in a few years. Perhaps that drug was one of the other types mentioned at the end of the article; I'm afraid some of the medical jargon is beyond me.
A once-promising pathway for research into preventing and treating Alzheimer's disease may have been derailed by a surprise chemical finding...Scientists in laboratories around the world have been investigating drug candidates called amyloid inhibitors, which many experts believed could keep proteins such as amyloid-beta from sticking together in brain tissue.....
A team of chemists at the University of California, San Francisco, found that these candidate drugs form large, unwieldy clumps themselves, rendering them useless as targeted therapy against amyloid in the brain....
In other words, the drugs lose their ability to migrate to the brain to fight amyloid plaque. They also give up their targeted specificity against amyloid....
(A)ntibody-focused strategies aimed at eliminating plaques, or treatments focused on easing the downstream effects of amyloid buildup (still have potential).
(I)t's still not certain whether protein plaques even cause Alzheimer's and other brain diseases, or whether they are merely byproducts of the disease process.
All that money and work, for nothing. I hope these researchers can find something more promising to work with.
(Screenprint of article as accessed 01-31-2008)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

167 study shows dementia lifespan=4.5 years

A study done in England shows that after diagnosis, those with dementia live an average of 4.5 years. That seems low to me. My dad was given 9-11 years, based on his young age, and lived 3.5. (I've also heard that if you are younger, it goes faster. So maybe no one really knows.)
I can't argue and scream and cry and say my dad got cheated out of a year--or 5, or more. Someone else's loved one gets that extra year, right? I've always believed that for every life cut short, those years go to someone who lives a long time. Heath Ledger, for instance, who died yesterday at 28, gave years to someone else, somewhere. Or so I believe. Maybe my dad's extra time will go to Terry Pratchett. I'd feel good about that.
An estimated 24 million people worldwide have the mental confusion marked by memory loss and problems with orientation that signals Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.....Women lived for 4.6 years compared to 4.1 years for men. There was nearly seven years difference in survival between the youngest and oldest, with people aged 65 to 69 living 10.7 years and those over 90 living 3.8 years, the researchers found.
So I guess the estimate of my dad living 9-11 years wasn't that far off after all.
And although I am sad that he's gone, his last months were miserable, and if he had lived another year as he was in October and November, it would have been joyless for him and for us, and cost my mother everything she owned.
Screenprint of article.

Friday, January 04, 2008

166 Hemlock Society

These bouts of sadness come on me suddenly, and often for no reason. This morning I was working on one of my other blogs, and my big ragdoll kitten (9 months old, 15 lbs) was sprawled on his back, his head on my wrist, eyes half open, purring. I started thinking about how much he's going to miss me when I'm away next week, and then I thought, what if I get killed on vacation? I'll never see my cats or birds or fish again. And that made me cry.
When I drive, I have too much time to think, and my thoughts turned down that awful road: what if I get Alzheimer's? I mean, obviously I'm going to kill myself, right? I can't put my husband through that, and we have no children, I have no siblings, there'd be no one at all to help him with me. And he is not very nurturing to begin with.
And the next thought is how? I had a friend who said if she got it, she'd take a bottle of sleeping pills, go sit in her car in the garage with it turned on, and drink a glass of wine and listen to her favorite music until she fell asleep. It sounded very peaceful. But would it work? (Not that I drink wine. I'd be out there with my diet caffeine free Pepsi.)
So I thought, I'd better go look into joining the Hemlock Society. And gasp, they don't exist anymore. WTF? I am not in favor of teenage angst suicide, but if you have a terminal disease, or you're old and past your sell-by date and have no one who cares about you anymore, you should be able to check yourself out.
Evidently their duties have been taken over by a group called "Compassion and Choices" which doesn't have quite the same ring to it. And there isn't even a Connecticut chapter; they just refer you to the corporate office.
I just feel so old, and I didn't even battle AD myself. I only watched my father do it. I'm not even 40, but in the past few months my temples have gone gray and my hair has thinned from stress. My mom aged about 10 years. I just wonder physically what it's done to us. I read somewhere that Alzheimer's caregivers have drastically shortened lifespans, in accordance to how long the caregiving went on. So this disease didn't just take my father. It's stolen part of my mother's life too, and probably mine.