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Biotech Science

Alzheimer's Plaques Imaged in Living Brains 61

Posted by timothy
from the dilemma dept.
Yves writes "Japanese scientists have developed a technique to detect traces of Alzheimer's disease (amyloid plaques in the brain) on living mice... Until now, the standard way to confirm the presence of the plaques, and thus the disease, was by autopsy. The question remains: Do you really want to know early that you have Alzheimer disease, as there is no effective treatment yet?"
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Alzheimer's Plaques Imaged in Living Brains

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  • Personally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KinkifyTheNation (823618) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @12:50AM (#11950625) Journal
    I've thought about this before, and I don't think I could ever live knowing that all of my memories are going to go down the drain and not even realize it. I would probably go crazy at the thought and kill myself before it happened.
    • I would probably go crazy at the thought and kill myself before it happened.

      You are safe, you will not remember where you put that gun, or how to tie a noose, etc. :)

      Ok, this HAS to be the most insensitive comment I have ever posted on Slashdot.

      Finkployd
    • Re:Personally (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by daina (651638)
      I don't think I could ever live knowing that all of my memories are going to go down the drain and not even realize it.

      But they are! It is called death. Death is really just like "quick Alzheimers".

      All your memories are going to go down the drain and you won't realize it. Or are you one of the delusionals that believes otherwise?
    • Just archive all your memories on the Web. Then when you lose your memory you can go back and read it. We all forget stuff eventually.
  • Phosphatidylcholine (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JPyObjC Dude (772176)
    Take it and you will get better memory and many experts believe that it will prevent Alzheimer's.
    • by infonography (566403) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @01:44AM (#11950888) Homepage
      Not quite clear, Phosphatidylcholine is a purified extract from lecithin http://nootropics.com/lecithin/ [nootropics.com]

      "The only statistically significant result was in favour of placebo for adverse events, based on one trial, which appears likely to be a spurious result. "

      However, other results were;

      "Alzheimer's disease sufferers have been found to have a lack of the enzyme responsible for converting choline into acetylcholine within the brain. Lecithin is a major dietary source of choline, so extra consumption may reduce the progression of dementia."

      "The Cochrane Dementia and Cognitive Improvement Group's Specialized Register was searched on 15 May 2002 using the terms lecithin and phosphaditylcholine."

  • Want to know? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dn15 (735502) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @12:52AM (#11950640)
    The question remains: Do you really want to know early that you have Alzheimer disease, as there is no effective treatment yet?
    Interesting question. I doubt I'd really want to know, as much as it may sound like sticking my head in the sand. What good can it do for one's quality of life to spend their days worrying about a disease, if nothing can be done about it anyway? Maybe it would be good to be able to put your affairs in order, but besides that probably not.
    • Re:Want to know? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ayaress (662020) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @01:22AM (#11950799) Journal
      The article's got a slight innaccuracy. There are effective treatments, just no cure. However, some of the treatments are excellent, and can delay the onset of the disease and substantially slow it once it does show up. My great-grandmother was diagnosed with the disease seven years ago, but is still living a perfectly normal life for somebody her age. She worries far more about high blood pressure than Alzheimers.
      • Re:Want to know? (Score:2, Informative)

        by poopdeville (841677)
        She worries far more about high blood pressure than Alzheimers.

        I know what you meant, but you should tighten up your semantics before some insensitive clod mentions that this isn't necessarily a good thing.
    • Re:Want to know? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Curtman (556920) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @01:46AM (#11950894)
      It would probably be better information for the families, than for the individuals. You'd probably make better plans if you knew you were going to have to care for Grandpa as an alzheimer victim.
      • Re:Want to know? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by orangesquid (79734) <orangesquid@yahYEATSoo.com minus poet> on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @09:48AM (#11952486) Homepage Journal
        Hell yes I'd like to know. It'd be the perfect time to write memoirs; to recount over my life, make sure I've told the stories I want to tell, and get ready to just have fun for the rest of my life.

        Even if I lose the memories inside my head, I'll have them recorded, so they won't be gone.

        It's like knowing when you're going to die, except, it's knowing when a certain part of you is going to die.
        • Re:Want to know? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Why not do those things _right now_?
        • Even if I lose the memories inside my head, I'll have them recorded, so they won't be gone.

          I just don't think it's going to matter that much to you once you've passed on to the great recycling box in the ground. Death is inevitable, doesn't matter if its alzheimer's, or natural causes.

          That would be fantastic for your family if they had some kind of record for every person in their family. That kind of thing should be done regardless of diseases.
    • Re:Want to know? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sakusha (441986) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @03:38AM (#11951275)
      The bigger question is, do you want your insurance company to know early if you have Alzheimer's? Because they WILL know if you get tested. Forget about ever getting health insurance again if you switch jobs.
      • Re:Want to know? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by famebait (450028)
        Or move to a civilised country that actually manages to recognise the well-being of its citizens as a higher priority than the "right to not have health coverage".
      • Re:Want to know? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Murphy Murph (833008)
        The bigger question is, do you want your insurance company to know early if you have Alzheimer's? Because they WILL know if you get tested. Forget about ever getting health insurance again if you switch jobs.

        My Primary Care Physician has offered many tests to me "under the table" for that very reason.
    • Re:Want to know? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bluenawab (595006)
      I think the importance of this breakthrough lies not in the knowledge that the patient gains, but the usefulness of this information to researchers. By diagnosing and studying the animals with alzheimers syndrome, researchers will have a clearer idea of the usefulness of various treatments.
  • Hell yeah (Score:4, Funny)

    by Captain Splendid (673276) <capsplendid@gm3.1415926ail.com minus pi> on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @12:54AM (#11950650) Homepage Journal
    The question remains: Do you really want to know early that you have Alzheimer disease, as there is no effective treatment yet?

    Why not? I'll forget it pretty soon anyway!

  • by DaoudaW (533025) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @12:55AM (#11950658)
    Perhaps you meant to say no cure, but there are several effective treatments. My father-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about 5 years ago. The progress of the disease has been significantly curtailed by medication. It has also been shown that higher level thinking/learning has a significant protective effect from the symptoms of Alzheimer's. Yes, I would want to be tested specifically because there are currently effective medications and therapy which prolong quality of life.
    • Sides, who knows it may get someone who'd never considered working on a cure for alzheimers to create one for the most important reason of all: to cure themselves :)
    • by Ayaress (662020) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @01:09AM (#11950744) Journal
      Even before they had effective medications, it was better to know ahead. They determined a long time ago that people who kept an active mind tended to delay the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms. Even so much as doing the daily crossword puzzels in the newspaper and staying active is supposed to help. Beyond that, there have been therapies and even simple lifestyle changes available for a while that can be made to make dealing with symptoms easier if and when they do develop, and as a last resort, most visiting physician services have Alzheimer's specialists who can help.
    • by FleaPlus (6935) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @04:50AM (#11951479) Journal
      There was actually an article on this a few days ago.

      Original research paper in Cell: Environmental Enrichment Reduces Alpha-Beta Levels and Amyloid Deposition in Transgenic Mice [cell.com]
      Summary in Cell: Exercise Your Amyloid [sciencedirect.com]

      Article in Medical News Today [medicalnewstoday.com]

      Quote: Mice that keep their brains and bodies busy in an "enriched" environment of chew toys, running wheels, and tunnels have lower levels of the peptides and brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease compared to mice raised in more sparse conditions, according to a new study in the 11 March issue of the journal Cell.

      Levels of b-amyloid peptides, which clump together to form the brain "tangles" or plaques that are toxic to nerve cells in Alzheimer's disease, were significantly lower in the enriched mice, say Sangram Sisodia, of the University of Chicago, and colleagues. The enriched mice may have been better equipped than their less-stimulated counterparts to sweep these peptides out of the brain, according to the researchers' analysis of gene and enzyme expression in the animals.

      "This goes back to the old idea of use it or lose it, that using your brain keeps it more active," Sisodia says. "It's more common sense than anything, but what we didn't previously appreciate is that it might affect the pathology that is characteristic of Alzheimer's disease." ...

      The researchers also found intriguing clues that an active body, as well as an active brain, might be a key factor in reaping the benefits of an enriched environment. The most physically active of the mice in the elaborately furnished cages had the most dramatic reductions in amyloid peptides and deposits. At least among this small group of mouse workout devotees, "exercise appears to play a significant role in modulating amyloid deposition," Sisodia and colleagues write.

      The researchers caution, however, that it will take more experiments with larger numbers of animals to determine exactly how enriched environments benefit mice, whether through increased physical activity, a boost in visual, social, and spatial stimuli that awaken the brain, or some combination of all of these factors.

      Sisodia says exercise, along with any kind of mental activity from reading to doing the crossword puzzle, are probably the equivalent of chew toys and running wheels for humans. "It's all very important in keeping the mind active and potentially staving off effects of old age."
    • Here [mercola.com] is another interesting treatment option. I understand that scientists will de doing some formal human-centric studies with Curcumin at the the University of Utah.
  • For the few years between when I find out and when Ive actually lost it, I can have some serious fun with people.
  • Of course I'd want to know. There is not yet a cure for AIDS,but if I had that I'd want to know so I could prolong my life through healthier living. The same goes for alzthimers, although there isn't a cure, I'm sure I could prolong the onset by way of better living. Plus it would give me a chance to pick the one outfit I want to wear for the rest of my life, the one CD I want to listen to for the rest of my life, and the book/page, I want to read for the rest of my life.
  • I prefer backup to DVD. You never know when your system will crash and your may have to restore from the install disks. And yes I did read the real article, [newscientist.com]not the agenda-ridden screed.
  • by sithkhan (536425) <sithkhan@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @01:28AM (#11950815)
    Yes, I would like to know, if nothing more than being in control of things before it becomes a problem. I could update my living will, make my wishes known to my family and loved ones, and ... what was I saying?


    An older couple began to notice that they were forgetting things, so they decided to take a memory course together. They took the course and were simply thrilled with the results. One day while shopping in a local store, they met a friend. "Bill, you just have to take this memory course. It's fantastic ! It's changed our lives," the husband said. "Wow, that's great ! What's the name of the course?" The husband turned to his wife and asked, "Honey, what's the name of that flower with the long stem and thorns?" "You mean a rose?" she replied. "Yes, that's right." (PAUSE) "Rose, what's the name of that memory course we took?"
  • Do you wanna know you have Aids, if you cannot be treated?

    Do you wanna know you have cancer, if you cannot be treated?

    Excuse me, but the question " Do you really want to know early that you have Alzheimer disease, as there is no effective treatment yet?"" is not a very smart one.
    • Of course it's a smart question. Obviously, it's a real question. Once the test becomes readily available, doctors are going to ask plenty of people that question, as precursor to asking whether they would like to undergo the test. Unless you prefer to make up such answers on the spur of the moment, you'd do well to consider it in advance.

      If your post was rhetorical, and indicated that you would never want to know those things, then fine, but others have their own right to choose, and many will choose

  • We can already test for this disease by reading the chromosones.

    We can tell from the moment of your birth whether or not you will end up with it (provided you live long enough for it to take hold).

    The thing that exites me about this is that we may be able to study how it builds up, maybe understand the disease more (the biggest step toward curing a disease is to understand it).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Bah, genetic tests almost never determine whether you will get the disease; it only increases the conditional probability that you will get it. The idea is that you take the genetic test, and if you score positive on that, you take the imaging test every five years or so. If you score positive on that, then you start to worry.
  • I gotta say, I lost my Great-Grandmotherr to this, and it was HORRIFIC. Nothing like watching someone forget who you are, and who they are a little each day.

    My father has always said, after watching his grandmother go out that way: "If that ever happens to me, just let me wander out onto a dark highway, and hope i get hit by something big".
    • Please don't let him do this. Many truck and train drivers who hit a person never drive again because of the impact it has on them. And it makes one hell of a mess.

      There are much cleaner ways of doing the job.
  • by edward.virtually@pob (6854) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @02:28AM (#11951080)
    a more disturbing aspect of this is the possibility of employers and insurers discriminating against people based on the test.
    • definately true.

      thats why I've always had a little bit of a thing against these tests to find out if you carry the genome that means you'll get "this disease" or "that addiction".

      Think about it: now-a-days, you get nailed in insurance if you drink/smoke/use drugs. Whats to say that in the very near future, you dont get dinged for having a higher risk of drinking/smoking/doing drugs?
      • In Waco, Texas is a company who recently announced that all employees must sign a statement (or be terminated) agreeing not to smoke on company time, or during non-work personal hours, either. This agreement was to be retro-active, meaning all current smokers, if they wanted to keep their jobs, had to give up smoking. Furthermore, random (or not, it wasn't made clear) urinanlysis tests were going to be done to enforce the policy.

        I can understand a policy forbidding smoking near your place of employment - bu

    • You forget the money factor. A special MRI is needed to do this test (and this is not cheap), and I don't think that an employer (unless it's NASA and you want to go to Proxima Centauri) is going to invest that much in every single candidate.
      • If you read the linked New Scientist article, it says that the scientists developed a tracer for the plaques that can be detected by a regular MRI machine, so the expense of the test would be the design/production of the tracer.
  • this topic is indeed huge, and something that would be very important to know. therefore i'm surprised that a finding that was actually real would be published in a garbage journal like new scientist. a google scholar [google.com] search returns about 3,230 hits for articles in this area, most of which many are in peer-reviewed journals. i'm skeptical of this find unless i could see a real paper...
    • Try this one then:
      PubMed reference [nih.gov] ... The real article seems to be published in Nature Neuroscience.

      Personally, I wouldn't call New Scientist a garbage journal by the way, its aim isn't to be a strict scientific journal, but rather to bring news about science to the reasonably well educated masses. A bit like Nature was before they split off into many many subjournals.
  • Australian research has turned up something "promising" using the drug Clioquinol - not without unpleasant side-effects, but chosen because it has already been used for other things (maybe scientists can come up with something friendlier). More about its initial promise on this story from Catalyst [abc.net.au] - the science show on Australia's non-commercial channel, the ABC. (Includes links to watch the story with Real or Windows Media players.)

    Maybe something will come of it.

  • by GoRK (10018) <johnlNO@SPAMblurbco.com> on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @05:03AM (#11951516) Homepage Journal
    What a ridiculous question! If doctors simply never told anyone about a problem if it was currently "incurable," what kind of medical advancements could anyone ever make?

    -- Being able to positively identify the plaques while a person is alive is instrumental to being able to determine the effectiveness of any proposed treatment in a timely manner. A patient could have symptoms of Alzheimers and participate in a treatment study -- if the symptoms miraculously dissapear, there would not be any way to positively determine if the treatment itself helped, or even if Alzheimers was the cause of the symptoms in the first place -- at least not until many years later when an autopsy might happen to confirm an earlier diagnosis.
  • Already done.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lunadog (821751) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @10:39AM (#11952933)
    The actual novelty of this story is that the plaques are being imaged with MRI using a probe rather than SPET or PET using a probe. Both SPET and PET imaging of amaloid plaques has been possible for several years...

    Yawn.
  • What was the question again?
  • Do you really want to know early that you have Alzheimer disease, as there is no effective treatment yet?

    Sez you! I brush twice daily with a brainpaste that inhibits plaque development!
  • Of course I want to know. I want to start saving up money, doing favors, as much as possible so people will take care of me once the damage hits. The longer I can stay alive, the better chance I'll have to be around when there's any kind of treatment. And maybe I'll have enough time to write down everything I need to remember [imdb.com] to get through the "rough spot".

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