Aussie researchers have made an Alzheimer’s breakthrough

New therapy appears to slow possible progression of brain disease.

Aussie Alzheimer’s breakthrough

Australian researchers say they have made a breakthrough in Alzheimer's research that points towards a potential therapy to slow, if not stop, the progression of the brain disease.

Florey Institute and CSIRO researchers discovered a link between higher levels of brain iron, the presence of Alzheimer’s protein amyloid, and poorer memory and language skills.

Scientists have long known that the slow build-up of a substance known as amyloid in the brain determines whether people will eventually experience Alzheimer’s disease.

A potential therapy using existing drug deferiprone will soon be trialled in Australia’s major cities.

Analysis of MRI brain scans of 117 participants of the Australian Imaging and Biomarker lifestyle (AIBL) study now suggests the presence of high levels of iron in the hippocampus acts together with amyloid to speed up the disease's progression.

The Australian researchers showed that about 30 per cent of people in their 70s have high levels of amyloid in their brain, but confusingly, some retain all their cognitive faculties much longer than others.

Six years ago, 117 AIBL participants had amyloid protein and brain iron measured using brain scans. Every 18 months since, their mental faculties were tested. The researchers used this data to see whether brain iron and amyloid can predict people’s cognitive performance.

“Cognitive abilities like short-term memory, executive function and language ability declined much faster in people with high brain iron levels and high amyloid levels, even if they were otherwise healthy, than those with low brain iron who were also amyloid positive,” according to the Florey Institute’s Dr Scott Ayton.

Although this study used correlations between iron, amyloid and cognitive performance, and thus iron can not yet be called a ‘causative’ agent in Alzheimer’s disease, the results make compelling biological sense.

Higher iron levels in the hippocampus of amyloid-positive people predicted worse performance on a series of short-term memory tasks. The hippocampus, curiously enough, is where our short-term memories are created and stored.

Our powers of language are mainly centred in our temporal and frontal lobes and higher iron in these brain regions predicted poorer performance in language-based tasks.

“These results suggest that iron acts together with amyloid to speed up the Alzheimer’s disease process. Those individuals with high amyloid but low iron will also eventually go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, but much later than their high-iron counterparts” says Dr Ayton.

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    COMMENTS

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    leek
    26th Jul 2017
    10:33am
    Gee I hope they can work this out before I get too much older. I really fear this disease more than anything else. I watch my mum deterioate and then die from Alzheimers sort of related problems. She tried a few times to kill herself before she got too bad but then she would forget all aobut it, and forget how to kill herself as well. Really sad.
    Anonymous
    26th Jul 2017
    11:34am
    Likewise, Leek. We live in hope! Modern medical technology is achieving wonderful things, and maybe we'll be lucky enough to see this dreadful disease stamped out before it gets us. I sure hope so. My mother was diagnosed with early stage Dementia. Fortunately, physical ailments led to demise before the Dementia progressed far, but she lived in terror of brain deterioration and loss of memory, and I can well understand why.
    Rosret
    26th Jul 2017
    1:36pm
    Alzheimers and Dementia are not the same so I wondered if this just applied to Alzheimers or all forms of brain deterioration.
    Then I wondered if Alzheimer patients had a high an iron deposit why have they got high levels? Would that make an anemic person less likely to get Alzheimers?
    Then surely more men would get Alzheimers than women, and vegetarians would be less likely to get the conditions - but I don't think that is how it works.
    While it is an interesting discovery I have so many more questions associated with their findings.
    Ted Wards
    27th Jul 2017
    10:52am
    HI Rosret
    Dementia is an umbrella term and Alzheimer's is a form of dementia, there are many forms so no, Alzheimer's is not different to dementia, it is a form of dementia. Perhaps if you looked at the facts you wouldn't have so many questions. Iron is also high in many vegetables so yes vegetarians can also form Alzheimer's. This study is looking at the correlation between high iron levels in a part of the brain and other factors. It is only in its early stages of investigation but it gives us hope. If you have ever had a family member that lives with this terrible and fatal disease you would be more sensitive to the hope it offers the family members.
    dweezy2176
    26th Jul 2017
    11:09am
    This building up of false hope is getting really annoying! I'm 69 & never concerned myself with this much until Sydney Channel 9 News started their thrice a week "miracle" cure segments.
    As far as I'm aware this is a condition that occurs in a lot of us old folk & like it or lump it some of us are going to suffer from it .. period.. "Two-bob watch" cures are floating around on a daily basis these days so I assume the "grants" funding is being rolled out whilst it is on the "favourites" list.
    Last night on Channel 9 News they actually stated, Alzheimer's" is the 2nd biggest killer in Australia .. since when did dementia kill, it may contribute but ......? I'm yet to see a death certificate that lists Alzheimer's as a direct cause.
    In the meanwhile I'll just get on with life and hope I miss it!
    Anonymous
    26th Jul 2017
    11:35am
    Let's not be too negative, dweezy2178. Modern medical technology is progressing very rapidly and achieving great things. It's entirely possible they are well on the way to curing this awful disease. Let's hope so.
    Rosret
    26th Jul 2017
    1:48pm
    Its just an observation - no cure in their discovery. As for the news - so many people are hoping for a break through to save a family member that any headline would have got our attention.
    Lucky they invented the remote control!
    However from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2015~Main%20Features~Australia's%20leading%20causes%20of%20death,%202015~3

    Dementia, including Alzheimer disease is rated the 2nd highest cause of death at average age 88 in 2015.
    Anonymous
    26th Jul 2017
    5:56pm
    dweezy, I had a close relative die because of Alzheimer's and the doctor attending told the family that Alzheimer's is different from dementia. Although the symptoms are similar, Alzheimer's will cause death whereas dementia won't. The only way to tell the difference is by autopsy which is a bit late to assess a treatment. It is a dreadful illness and any steps forward in finding a treatment is most welcome.
    baza18
    26th Jul 2017
    11:30am
    dweezy, I am pretty sure it can kill you by killing certain areas of your brain & that's what kills you. But it does annoy me when they come up with some of these other cures & then say it will be available in 10 years time
    Anonymous
    26th Jul 2017
    11:36am
    Yes, it's annoying to have to wait years, but better to have a cure in 10 years time than not at all, or in 20 or 50 years.
    baza18
    26th Jul 2017
    11:30am
    dweezy, I am pretty sure it can kill you by killing certain areas of your brain & that's what kills you. But it does annoy me when they come up with some of these other cures & then say it will be available in 10 years time
    Old Geezer
    26th Jul 2017
    12:04pm
    A MRI brain scan will tell you the risk you have of getting this disease. I've had one myself and no problems there at all.
    Anonymous
    31st Jul 2017
    8:31am
    Of course not, OG. Brain cells already destroyed by the greed and selfishness disease aren't susceptible to Alzheimers of Dementia. They are already dead! Only that type of cell death isn't visible in MRI brain scans.
    Young Simmo
    26th Jul 2017
    12:56pm
    My wife and I have always believed, thought, assumed take your pick that we wouldn't go down the Alzheimer's path. BUT over the last few months we are forgetting things on a regular basis. I see people I have known really well for many years, I know their face like it is my brother or sister, yet I can not remember exactly who they are. We are 77, and like a car parts will wear out but, I would prefer the tires to wear our before the computerized electrical system.
    Triss
    26th Jul 2017
    4:40pm
    Have you had your vitamin B12 checked? Often a deficiency of B12 can mimic dementia.
    Young Simmo
    26th Jul 2017
    4:56pm
    No Triss how do I find out, is it a blood test? as I have my monthly Doctors visit tomorrow.
    Ted Wards
    27th Jul 2017
    10:56am
    Hey young Simmo

    There is also something called aged associated memory loss, which all people will develop if they live long enough, but this does not necessarily mean you are developing a form of dementia. There are many reasons why you could be forgetting things as other posters have pointed out. if you are remembering your forgetting there is hope for you yet. A blood test is always a good idea.
    Charlie
    26th Jul 2017
    12:57pm
    Brain is already getting quite dense, but I don't think it is iron.
    shirboy
    26th Jul 2017
    1:10pm
    My husband died late 2015 with Lewy Body dementia which is a cruel way to die. He knew us right to the end & was aware of the trauma his body was subjected to (severe spasms). This disease is the same as suffered by Robin Williams the comedian who took his own life because he knew the hell he would suffer.
    Rosret
    26th Jul 2017
    1:56pm
    I think these findings are specific to just Alzheimer's which is one of many forms of dementia.
    However - its a start. - and yes it is a horrible way to die and yet this is one condition that is not going to be included in the euthanasia laws
    yet it is probably the most wanted reason to choof off this earth early.
    Young Simmo
    26th Jul 2017
    2:36pm
    Yes Rosret your last sentence says it all, and I have an 8th floor lined up. If I make a big mess it is the Govt's fault for not allowing people to go when they want to.
    AutumnOz
    26th Jul 2017
    3:59pm
    Is this report about Alzheimer's disease or Senile Dementia?
    It isn't clear in the article and the media has managed to convince everyone that Alzheimer's and Dementia are the same thing. They are not.
    Alzheimer's usually starts when people are in their forties and is always fatal and Dementia is a symptom of old age which is not fatal in itself but does last for the rest of the person's life. The word senile merely means old age it doesn't mean dementia.
    Rosret
    26th Jul 2017
    4:02pm
    I am interested in the comment, "the results make compelling biological sense." Why?
    We were raised with the idea that food with high iron content were excellent for brain function and muscle development.
    I am sure someone will explain how iron build up is different to iron intake but I am asking more questions than I think can be answered. It may explain why Alzheimers has a hereditary element as people in the same family may be predisposed to storing more iron in the brain than others.
    CiTe
    26th Jul 2017
    9:24pm
    I'd like to know how the iron gets in there so I can take steps to prevent that happening.
    Rather than take a pill after the fact, wouldn't it be better to avoid it happening in the first place?
    In Outer Orbit
    26th Jul 2017
    11:33pm
    Iron is essential to healthy blood, facilitating oxygen transport by haemoglobin, so that's how it gets in and needs to - you really wouldn't want to stop it happening.

    It's estimated that 60-80% of dementia cases are caused by Alzheimers, so overcoming Alzheimers would put a stop to the majority of dementia. Not the same exactly, but joined at the hip.

    Take heart fellow sapiens; unless we hope to end up bubbling in jars surrounded by tubes and electrodes, we are all going to succumb to something in the relative short term, no matter what. Eventually the sun will incinerate all life on earth (say 1 billion years on current guesstimates), and eventually the universe itself will expand and cool to -273'C, absolute zero, at which there is no atomic movement, much less any light. No DNA, no legacy, no descendants, no wealth, no real estate, no tax, no pollies, no parties, no countries, no immigration debacle. Nothing and nobody, forever more, without a trace of evidence that there ever was anything or anyone beyond the permanent freezing, still, pitch black, universal, atomic fog.

    So? Carpe diem.quam minimum credula postero. (ie just try to have a nice day).
    davo
    27th Jul 2017
    12:33am
    Re comment by Rosret on the link with iron and amyloid correlating with Dementia: iron can accumulate in people with haemochromotosis, a genetic inherited condition found in 25%+ of people with a Celtic background, where the body does not regulate iron levels, it just accumulates over a lifetime. I know because I was fortunately diagnosed (simple chromosome-blood test) in my early 50's and have kept iron levels down to acceptable levels since then by donating blood under doctors supervision. The consequences of not keeping iron levels down are serious (liver cirrhosis being one potential problem among many) but with regular monitoring and some blood letting (venesection is the medical term), it can be easily controlled. Now we (those in the haemo club) have a potential additional reason to keep those iron levels at safe concentrations!
    Rosret
    27th Jul 2017
    8:09am
    Thanks Dave.
    That is a good reason to donate!