We’re on the cusp of reducing Alzheimer risk, but it may already be too late for most

Professor Michele Vendruscolo, from Cambridge University, who is leading the research, said: “This in terms of an approach for Alzheimer’s disease would be the equivalent of what statins do for heart conditions.

“So you would take them well in advance of developing the condition to reduce your risk.

“The dream would be to find a compound which is cheap and safe and therefore can be given early to everybody.”

He explained that Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disease occur in old age when natural defences that prevent the formation of protein aggregates in the brain, and help to clear them away, start to fail.

“Our idea is that we should supplement these natural defences by this chemical means,” he said.

Bexarotene was the first of about a dozen potential neurostatins identified by the scientists, whose research is reported in the journal Science Advances. Read more »

Photo Of The Day

Gramps 1

They Called him Gramp

A Story of Dying

On February 11 , 1974 , Frank Tugend , aged eighty-one and of dubiously sound mind ? but certainly of sound body removed his false teeth and announced that he was no longer going to eat or drink.

Three weeks later to the day, he died.

The remarkable thing was how Gramp died.

Franks death brought to a close a three-year ordeal–and three-year documentation-of gradual, but finally total, deterioration. Through camera and tapes his family recorded Frank Tugend?s involvement with the curse that is described as senility, or hardening of the arteries, or generalized arteriosclerosis. In real life it translates into standing naked in front of the picture window, or ?talking? to a giant red rabbit that lives in the refrigerator, or being unable to control one?s bowels. It is by no means unique millions of families are dealing with the problem right now.

As they?were recording their?experiences over the last three years of his life, they?also had to decide in the last weeks whether or not to have him hospitalized to be sustained by intravenous tubes. But after he had made it clear that he?wanted?to die, they?chose to let him die at home, with some dignity intact.

Frank Tugend an upstanding family man began a tragic three-year decline brought about by generalized arteriosclerosis. His memory began to fail. At first, he lost the ability to drive.

Then, the ability to remember who, and where he was. The once polite man began to hallucinate and became aggressive to visitors. He and his family were ostracized by the community. His behaviour was often erratic. Having lost the ability to bathe, dress, and control his bowels, he required constant care.

The simplicity of Gramp?s lifestyle tended to minimize difficulties he might have had with ?forgetfulness? and confusion. Essentially a loner, he spent his days chopping wood and keeping his property tidy, or taking walks in the surrounding woods. When he was with others, it was usually his family, who saw him every day and didn?t really, or comprehend; the changes that were taking place in Gramp.

Read more »

Photo Of The Day

Photographer: Kenneth O?Halloran

Photographer: Kenneth O?Halloran

Living with Alzheimer?s

?Angel, Dioni and Cristina exhausted, doze in the living room.

Read more »

Bad news for Tisch and Woodhouse


There is some bad news just in Short Man Syndrome if left untreated leads to dementia and death.

It really is bad news for Lindsay Tisch and Michael Woodhouse.

Short men are more likely to die from dementia than taller men, scientists have found, in the first ever study to link height with mental decline in old age.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that men who were 5ft 5 inches or shorter were 50 per cent more likely to develop, and die from dementia, that those who were 5ft 8 inches or taller.

The academics think that height is an important indicator of developmental difficulties in childhood, such as stress, illness and poor nutrition.

They warn that lifelong damage can take place while the body is growing which may not be apparent until much later in life and suggest that breakfast clubs, vaccination programmes and improved parenting schemes could help tackle the growing dementia timebomb.

Read more »

In times of trouble you find out who your real friends are, often they are the ‘enemy’

I can relate to this:

Barry Cohen is a lovely man and as a Hawke Government Minister summed up the best of Labor – compassionate but practical, romantic but no dreamer, improver not revolutionary. Add, of course, he?s a man with great faith in Western civllisation.

He today writes that he has dementia and has had had to move into a nursing home:

When word got out that I had joined the list of dementia sufferers one of the first calls I had was from an old ?friend?.

?A Mr Howard calling,? was the message from the nurse.

?I don?t know a Mr Howard, unless it?s the former prime minister.?

?That?s the one,? said the nurse.

I was deeply moved that a lifelong opponent had taken the trouble to ring to find out how I was and whether he could do anything to help. After a lengthy conversation, I told him, ?This is what makes Australia a great country.?

Great men and women help make a great country. You?ve just heard about two of them.

Read more »

Tweet of the Day


Scoop huh?

You mean those ?real journalists? ? Or you mean the Internet Party guy? ?I forget. ? Read more »

Winston Peters and his own conflicts of interest

Jan Trotman and Winston Peters

Jan Trotman and Winston Peters

Winston Peters is always the first to claim that other members of parliament have conflicts of interest and last week was front and centre in whipping up a storm over a glass of milk.

WOBH can exclusively reveal that Winston Peters has his own conflicts of interest, some going back many years.

Some basic facts first so that what is revealed can be put into context.

  • Winston Peters long time partner is Jan Trotman.
  • From 1993-2006 Ms Trotman was General Manager of?Janssen, Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson.
  • During this period, Winston Peters and other members of his caucus asked many very specific questions in relation to the pharmaceutical industry regarding Pharmac funding and in particular in relation to Janssen products.

Here is the evidence.

In October 2001 Winston Peters asked in Question 4 what reasons there are for not publicly funding a range of other drugs and treat Alzheimer’s disease other than with the Aricept drug. He further asks why is it that Exelon has also been on Australia’s publicly funded pharmaceutical benefit scheme list since February 2001, and Reminyl (a Janssen product) is to be added from tomorrow, while New Zealanders suffer not having the benefits of these drugs.

In 2003 he asks more questions (Q9 ) on these Alzheimer’s drugs in the House about why the government was doing a trial on the efficacy of Alzheimer’s drugs when they have been proven and are publicly funded in other first world countries.

9.?Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader?NZ First)?to the?Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Health; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister)?:?Yes, because she is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If she is such a hard-working and conscientious Minister, why is she a Minister who says that the efficacy of Alzheimer?s drugs has not been proven, when Canada, UK, Australia, USA, Latin America, and Western Europe all make those drugs publicly available; or is this just another example of inexcusable, inexplicable, heartless cost-cutting?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, none of the above. This country has very careful mechanisms for assessing what drugs it is appropriate to fund, and I am not aware that those mechanisms and procedures have changed substantially in recent years, at all.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does the Prime Minister not inform herself of the facts before she rises and makes a statement like that, when Canada, UK, Australia, USA, Latin America, and Western Europe?nearly all the First World?recognise that those drugs do work, and make them publicly available, whilst her Minister is demanding that Pharmac do a trial to find out what everybody else in the world knows and is prepared to spend money on, excepting her heartless Government and Minister?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can only repeat that getting value for money is very important, and that does not mean paying any price for any drug that a pharmaceutical company wants.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is the Prime Minister aware that these drugs are the only treatment available to patients with Alzheimer?s, and why will they not be funded?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I suggest the member put down a question on notice with specific reference to the question of Alzheimer?s drugs. It is this Government?s determination to provide proper treatment for people across the range of conditions. It is also a fact that we consider health sufficiently important to have it as a front-bench portfolio.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister might think that health is important enough to have it has a front-bench portfolio, but being informed about it is not what she is demonstrating today. She should not?having attempted to answer two questions already?then pretend that she has adequately answered this House by suggesting that the member ?put down a written question?. She has been asked why the only drug proven worldwide is being denied to the thousands of sufferers in this country, and? ? Read more »

Sleep…I need it…Now

I am in desperate need of sleep after having ridden the wave this week…I’ve survived on less than 3 hours sleep a night and it is wearing me down.

Sleep is important as this article in the Guardian explains.

Scientists in the US claim to have a new explanation for why we?sleep: in the hours spent slumbering, a rubbish disposal service swings into action that cleans up waste in the brain.

Through a series of experiments on mice, the researchers showed that during sleep, cerebral spinal fluid is pumped around the brain, and flushes out waste products like a biological dishwasher.? Read more »

An email about the Euthanasia Bill

Earlier I blogged about Labour’s?squeamishness?over euthanasia despite the members bill from Maryan Street.

A reader emails about her experience.

Hi Cam …

Thank you for your comments re Maryan Street’s bill, popularly being called her “euthanasia bill”, a term that is going to attract some strong opposition. My understanding is that it’s “voluntary euthanasia”, a term that takes the scariness out of it … right? ?I also understand that there will be very strict rules around the application of the law ?… but already anticipate the headlines in the Herald which will be based on alarmist views !!? Read more »

Change your Diet, Trev

New research has discovered a possible solution to Trevor’s well known issues with dementia. All Trevor has to do is change his diet, it’s not too late:

Researchers have discovered a link between low vitamin C, beta-carotene levels and dementia, meaning antioxidant rich fruit and veg – such as spinach, carrots and apricots – could help fight the disease’s devastating symptoms.

German scientists looked at the differences between 74 people with mild Alzheimer’s disease and 158 healthy subjects.

The participants, between 65 and 90 years of age, underwent neuropsychological testing, answered questions about their lifestyle and had their blood examined and their body mass index calculated.

The team including epidemiologist Professor Gabriele Nagel and neurologist Professor Christine von Arnim found the serum-concentration of the antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene were significantly lower in patients with mild dementia than in control group.

There was no such difference between the groups in levels of other antioxidants including vitamin E, lycopene, coenzyme Q10.

Dr Nagel said although more studies were needed to confirm the results, the findings suggested fruits and vegetables could play a role in fighting the disease.

“Longitudinal studies with more participants are necessary to confirm the result that vitamin C and beta-carotene might prevent the onset and development of Alzheimer’s disease”, said Dr Nagel, of the University of Ulm.

“Vitamin C can for example be found in citrus fruits; beta-carotene in carrots, spinach or apricots.”

Alzheimer’s disease symptoms including forgetfulness, lack of orientation and cognitive decline are caused by alterations in the brain including amyloid-beta-plaques, degeneration of fibrillae and a loss of synapses.