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Biotech

Brain Implants Relieve Alzheimer's Damage 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the wired-reflexes-next dept.
Genetically engineered cells implanted in mice have cleared away toxic plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease. The animals were sickened with a human gene that caused them to develop, at an accelerated rate, the disease that robs millions of elderly people of their memories. After receiving the doctored cells, the brain-muddling plaques melted away. If this works in humans, old age could be a much happier time of life.
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Brain Implants Relieve Alzheimer's Damage

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  • by edashofy (265252) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @08:03PM (#20406141)
    It's a fantastic time to be a mouse. Mouse with cancer? No problem. Mouse with alzheimers? No problem. Mouse with diabetes? Go ahead and have that Snicker bar, we have the cure for what ails ya.
    • by D-Cypell (446534) *
      Yeah! Say what you like about Disney, their health cover is second to none!
    • by CheeseTroll (696413) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:23PM (#20407139)
      Mouse with head still attached? Yep, they'll take care of that, too!
    • by revxul (463513)
      Having bad memories? We can get rid of those for you, no problem! [link - world-science.net [world-science.net]]
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by DrBuzzo (913503)
      Yes there is some truth to that. Mice and rats have been used to demonstrate some amazing medical therapies that either turn out not to be as effective with humans or never make it that far. This story is promising, but one should consider that there are a lot of steps especially with something like this. You don't put genetically engineered cells into a live human brain before going through a real real real lot of animal/cell culture/simulation/biochemical studies... And when that's all said and done
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by eam (192101)
        Not that it changes the situation that much, but they're actually talking about taking skin cells from the patient, genetically modifying them, then putting them back in the patient's skin. No brain surgery required, and if it works out badly the removal is probably easier than removing a wart.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by eam (192101)
          Of course, the web site got it wrong, too. The title says "Brain implants", but the article specifies skin implants.

          See, it isn't only slashdot editors that screw up.

          Of course, I'm assuming the editor of the Harvard University Gazette decided on the title for the article. It would be more disturbing if the author of the article didn't know enough about what he wrote to get the title right.
  • The best news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sunburnt (890890) * on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @08:05PM (#20406153)

    I'm normally quite sarcastic when posting.

    Not now. Alzheimer's Disease is one of the most horrifying maladies faced in societies where people live long enough to suffer from it.

    I hope that this research pans out into practical treatment. Being betrayed by the body is terrible enough later in life.

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Trillan (597339)
      I've had a couple relatives go this way. Definitely something I wouldn't wish on anyone. This needs to become a practical treatment.
      • by Rei (128717)
        Something about this seems off, though. I've seen MRIs and PET scans of alzheimers patients (I'm no doctor, but I work writing medical imaging software according to spec), and the thing that stands out most about them to me, as a layman, is the *lack* of tissue, not *extra* tissue that you would want to dissolve. Example from a quick google images search here [ohsu.edu] (healthy 92-year old male left, 92-year old male AD patient right). I don't see how a drug that destroys plaques is going to reverse that.
        • by Cecil (37810)
          You might be right, but experts in the field have been convinced for over a decade that the formation of the plaques is what causes the problems. I'm not saying experts can't be wrong, but generally they're a pretty safe bet. Isn't it possible that the plaque growth is what causes the brain cells to die off? In which case dissolving the plaques seems like it would be a good treatment plan.
    • Sure early Alzheimers must be a bit frustrating for the sufferer, but this is tempered by a loss of cognitive function (ie. you don't necessarily realise that you have the condition). It is probaly far more horrifying for the people who remember Jim being all bright and sharp but now see him dulled.M

      I'd think that a stroke or other direct physical impediment must be far more frustrating for the actual sufferer.

      Increasing Alzheimers is mostly a result of keeping people alive longer. No matter how age care pr

      • by Sunburnt (890890) * on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @08:58PM (#20406531)

        Sure early Alzheimers must be a bit frustrating for the sufferer, but this is tempered by a loss of cognitive function (ie. you don't necessarily realise that you have the condition).
        In my secondhand experience, that is only a consolation once the disease is terminal. Before that point lies a great deal of suffering spread out over years, without any hope for even a partial rehabilitation.

        Perhaps we should allow people to die earlier with dignity.

        Death with dignity is an important right. To me, it's almost as compelling as the possibility of living longer with dignity. That's why this research is so important.

        • 3 Billion men alert vital and virile well into their 100's. That should be good for the planet.

          Not that I would turn it down myself...

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Sunburnt (890890) *

            3 Billion men alert vital and virile well into their 100's. That should be good for the planet.
            We're already at 3 billion men (and over 3 billion women, for that matter.) "Vital" and "virile" might be a longshot, and unrelated to the research in question, but "alert" (or "not senile") probably wouldn't be a negative.
        • by Joe Tie. (567096)
          In my secondhand experience, that is only a consolation once the disease is terminal. Before that point lies a great deal of suffering spread out over years, without any hope for even a partial rehabilitation.

          Same here. You'll almost never see the reality of it from the media though. It's always just bemused, confused, funny old folks. My Grandmother has it, and it's convinced me that I'm going to eat a bullet if I'm able if and when I come anywhere near that state. She lives in a state of near permanen
        • by ahkbarr (259594) *

          Perhaps we should allow people to die earlier with dignity.

          Death with dignity is an important right. To me, it's almost as compelling as the possibility of living longer with dignity. That's why this research is so important.

          There is no dignity in death. Death is greedy, messy and selfish. I agree with what you're saying, though.

          I would go a step farther, and point out that there's nothing immutable about any facet of aging, and that we should be thinking about senescence as an accumulation of preventable

      • by Trogre (513942) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:14PM (#20406627) Homepage
        How about spending every day convinced that you're eight years old, and that your (long dead) parents have abandoned you in a strange place?

      • by wytcld (179112) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @09:40PM (#20406821) Homepage

        you don't necessarily realise that you have the condition
        Have you known anyone with it? You might not realize at first why something is wrong, but you see that others are treating you as if it is. It doesn't just strike the elderly; there's an early-onset variety. You lose your job because you're losing track of details too often. Shopkeepers start to realize they can get away with shortchanging you. Your car keys become more lost at home, more often, and when you drive you get more lost, more often. When you do become convinced something serious is going wrong, the doctors tell you that it could, perhaps be Alzheimers. But they have no sure way of diagnosing it prior to an autopsy. Your health insurance company - if you didn't lose that with your job - contests your claim because your doctors can't produce a definite diagnosis. Maybe you're just depressed? Maybe you're just a malingerer? Keeping track of the details needed to contest their denials becomes almost impossibly complex for you. Some days, you start to forget to eat. Other days, you're almost your normal self. The amazing plasticity of the brain allows you to mimic normal function socially well enough that some friends don't really see anything wrong. But you've got an awful feeling there is.

        If you want Alzheimers patients "to die earlier with dignity" then you'll have to start killing them, like witches, at the first sign. Because for most of them it's the first thing to seriously go wrong. And for most of them it develops very, very slowly, sliding down a slope where by the time you might wish they'd say "Kill me now, please," any such rational choice is finally behind them.
        • If you want Alzheimers patients "to die earlier with dignity" then you'll have to start killing them, like witches, at the first sign. Because for most of them it's the first thing to seriously go wrong. And for most of them it develops very, very slowly, sliding down a slope where by the time you might wish they'd say "Kill me now, please," any such rational choice is finally behind them.

          If anyone really did want to take that approach, they could record such a decision in advance, while they still have

      • by HeroreV (869368)

        Perhaps we should allow people to die earlier with dignity.
        If people didn't have such strong irrational hang-ups about suicide, that would be the best answer. Live as long as you possibly can until something like Alzheimers comes along, and then wack yourself. You avoid the long terrible death associated with living too long, while still having a longer life.
      • by Squarewav (241189) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @12:18AM (#20407851)
        Sadly Hollywood and TV make it look like Alzheimer's is nothing more then memory loss.

        I live with my parents now to take care of my dad who has early onset late stage Alzheimer's. he most def knows something is wrong with him. He is unable to speak and it frustrates him to no end. He can't find the bathroom and we (me and my mom) have to figure out that he needs it and lead him to it. Even the most basic things like putting on his pants is a nightmarish exp for him.

        Its not the watching some one fade away that makes things hard on the family. Its watching someone exp hell on earth and not being able to do a damn thing about it
      • by NoPantsJim (1149003) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @01:36AM (#20408221) Homepage
        My grandfather passed away from Alzheimer's complications this Summer after living on his own for around 5 years. He sure as hell knew he had it. As recently as last October he was still in amazing physical shape, running daily to the gym, working out like a maniac, and running back to his home. Even at his old age, he could still do more pull ups than I can at 22 (and I'm no slouch, 28 palms forward from dead hang, he beat me with 33).

        We noticed the first signs around Christmas. He began to act in an odd way and mixed up some of our names. We insisted he go to a doctor, who then told us he was so far along in the disease that he must have been suffering from it for at least a year. When we confronted him about it he told us he was embarrassed and did not want us to take his freedom away. It was amazing how quickly he declined in the next few months.

        I was always very close with him, he actually bought me the truck I currently drive and has helped pay for some of my college. The last time I saw him he didn't know who I was, and asked me to tell him about myself. I talked to him for around four hours recounting my life and the times we had spent together. At the end he started crying because he said he wanted to remember my parents and me, but couldn't. When we left that day he told us he didn't want to live anymore, and died three days later.

        The reason Alzheimer's is such a horrific disease is because it is such a tarnish on the life of the individual. My grandfather was in the Navy during World War II. He was an officer and was actually present in the room during the signing of the official surrender terms on the USS Missouri on V-J day. He spent the next 15 years as a stock car racer, and then owned a chain of mechanics shops for 20 years. He raised three successful children and had several grandchildren he was very close with. But when he died, he had absolutely zero recollection of any of this.

        I just know that I don't want to go out and achieve all of my goals in life only to reach an age at which I cannot recall any of them.
      • by rilister (316428) on Thursday August 30, 2007 @03:51AM (#20408719)
        wow, that's a shockingly ignorant statement. Commenting on Slashdot on graphic cards when you no nothing about it is one thing, but on fatal diseases is a different kind of thing, dude.

        A 'bit frustrating'? Most people are diagnosed a year or so into onset, but there's no real way of knowing when the disease starts. For many patients, there's literally (like, 5) years of knowing a) you have a disease that is 100% fatal and that you will gradually forget the names and faces of the people you love. b) you will eventually become a terrible burden on those same people, you will treat them badly and they will get to watch as you regress to less than a child. c) gradually losing all the mental faculties that you take for granted every day, knowing exactly why for several years.

        It's terrible, frightening death sentence where the patient's personality is dismantled piece-by-piece, moving slowly to death, with their families watching helplessly on.

        I've worked with patients with a number of chronic and fatal diseases (cancer, AIDS, etc...) and nothing would scare me more than a diagnosis of Alzheimer's.
      • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Thursday August 30, 2007 @04:18AM (#20408845) Homepage Journal
        A "bit frustrating"? Try years of living in fear of whats happening and shame of not being able to function properly and desperately trying to hide it. It's not how it plays out for all Alzheimers sufferers, but it's a fairly normal way for it to start.

        Both my grandmothers went down that route. One of them managed to hide it from her husband until he was meant to go to hospital for a minor operation. Then her world collapsed, because she knew she wouldn't be able to handle things alone while he was away, and she refused to get out of bed, and she never did again - she lived another ten years with rapidly declining mental faculties and rapidly accelerating memory loss, but was certainly aware of it for another year or two.

        The other, we realized after she was diagnosed, had been hiding her declining memory for years by excusing any memory problem by claiming she had "just taken pain medication" for some of her other health problems. Others hide it by writing notes to assist them, or learning to talk and ask questions in ways designed to avoid admitting they've forgotten something.

        Remember those horrible moments in school, when you'd forgotten something very obvious and got asked about it, and knew or thought everyone else would think you were an idiot if you answered wrongly? Now imagine every conversation you have for several years being like that.

      • No, it's deeply distressing for the sufferer as well, although you are right to say the family and friends do suffer horribly too. It takes years, even decades to fully play out, and for much of that, the sufferer is aware of what is happening to them. When they stop remembering what's happening to them, it gets even worse. They have to be looked after all the time, but resent being treated like a child. They can't remember that they aren't capable anymore. People often get violent, or deeply depresse
      • First up, I appreciate the responses giving by posters who have witnessed first hand the trauma of Alzheimer's sufferers.

        I wonder if it would make any difference if very early on in life, a person became aware of what Alzheimer's was all about and resolved that if it should ever happen to them, they would calmly accept it. Then later on in life, if they began to experience the symptoms of memory loss, they would still have this memory of resolving to accept Alzheimer's if it should ever afflict them - an
      • Perhaps we should allow people to die earlier with dignity.

        Most people I've talked to don't know about this.

        Disease-free old people often just up and die for no reason. I'm serious - there actually is such thing as death from old age. It's a systematic thing. For whatever reason and by some mechanism we don't understand, the body decides that it's no longer time to be alive, and systems start slowly shutting down.

        As far as I can tell, it's rather a nice way to go compared to the others. It's over in a few d

  • Flowers... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Penguinshit (591885)
    ... for poor old Algernon. Good to see he'll remember his "smart" days.
  • My grandmother was involved in some secret trials of this technology. I have to say it is marvelous. For years she could hardly remeber a thing, but once we found a doner she can now remember everything up until the motorcylce accident.
  • I, for one, welcome our new elderly cyborg overlords...

    Well, someone had to...
  • while being fully aware that they are dying. The frailness of age is still not solved with it, but it will make healthcare even more costly as all people getting older will demand this or other costly cures. One should wonder if people will demand longer careers (past their 70s) to pay for this extension of life too.
    • by d12v10 (1046686)
      ...

      1) Alzheimers != cancer
      2) The article does not say this is a cure, in fact it implies that is more a treatment than a cure
      3) Whether or not people would demand longer careers is not important. This isn't about the economy or healthcare, this is about treating PEOPLE with a FATAL ailment.
    • One should wonder if people will demand longer careers (past their 70s) to pay for this extension of life too.

      As socialized medicine seems just around the corner and the social security system is already in danger, I would go so far as to say longer careers should be strongly encouraged, and the social security age should be slowly raised. To pay for all of this we are going to need more cash going into the common government funds, and I don't fancy paying a 50% tax/S.S. rate to cover a bunch of Baby Boo
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        In the USA you could have had all this (zero cost at point of service medicine for everyone). They decided to have a war in Iraq instead.
        • by ElDuque (267493)

          Universal health care is a different order of magnitude from this war: Medicare spending over the next 5 years is estimated at $2.56 trillion by the CBO (nonpartisan), while 5 years of Iraq war has only cost us $500 billion. (source: a very partisan-looking website)

          If you want to expand government (taxpayer) funded health care from the approximately 50 million people Medicare currently covers to everyone, that $2.56 trillion goes up by a factor of about six.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        To pay for all of this we are going to need more cash going into the common government funds, and I don't fancy paying a 50% tax/S.S. rate to cover a bunch of Baby Boomers who retired at 60.

        You should know, the main problem (for a really long time) hasn't been a lack of money going into the SS trust fund, it's money going out. The Federal Government owes Social Security > 1 trillion dollars... with interest.

        Social Security has been running a surplus since around 1984 (which is when they jacked up taxes) BUT Republican and Democratic Administrations alike have been raiding the SS Trust Fund ever since then to cover their deficeit spending.

        In 1999 a Republican Congressman got a resolution pa

    • by OceanBarb (197565)
      Well, we are all dying...some just take longer than others. Every day past 21 years is gravy. But it sure is hard to live in the moment wearing that red vest when I'm 83. Hope my bones hold up. Don't anyone shove a shopping cart at me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by knewter (62953)
      Your mind seems awfully warped. Recognize this for what it is: an intriguing discovery with the possibility of solving a problem. If on the whole people are worse off for the treatment, we should rationally expect that it won't become widespread. So stop being a dick and just say 'hey this is really cool.'

      I used to be constantly pessimistic like this. I'm trying to get over it. Solving problems / learning more truths == good.
      • by nietsch (112711)
        Your mind must be warped even more in that you think you can judge somebody else's mind on the basis of three sentences.
    • In addition to being inexcusably nasty, your post makes asumptions without basis in TFA. Once in mass production, the cure would consist of:
      • Harvesting some skin cells.
      • Genetically altering them so that they'll generate the plaque-disolving chemical.
      • Injecting the altered cells into the spinal or cerebral fluid.

      So, 2 doctor visits plus occasional checkups to make sure nothing goes haywire. Some tricky lab work. Maybe $10,000.00, about what it costs to stay in a big-city nursing home for 1 month. In exchang

    • The frailness of age is still not solved with it, but it will make healthcare even more costly as all people getting older will demand this or other costly cures.

      This is one piece of solving the frailness of age. Solve enough of them and "old age" is no longer frail.

      Solve enough more and it is indistinguishable from healthy youth.

      Which IS the idea after all.

      Meanwhile, the cost of caring for an alzheimer's patient is astronomical. If you can do a one-shot procedure (even a very expensive one) which (at a m
    • by mikael (484)
      One should wonder if people will demand longer careers (past their 70s) to pay for this extension of life too.

      Well, here in the UK, the government has decided that anyone working in the private sector will have to work until they drop by abolishing the retirement age.

      Meanwhile, MP's and state workers still get their superannuated pension schemes and early retirement.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    He stops trying to run away from the guy in the lab coat.
  • Neprilysin (Score:5, Informative)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @08:31PM (#20406331) Journal

    The Harvard team used skin cells from the animal's own body to introduce a gene for an amyloid-busting enzyme known as neprilysin. The skin cells, also known as fibroblasts, "do not form tumors or move from the implantation site," Hemming notes. "They cause no detectable adverse side effects and can easily be taken from a patient's skin." In addition, other genes can be added to the fibroblast-neprilysin combo, which will eliminate the implants if something starts to go wrong.
    I suppose the simple genetic change isn't as likely to cause some immune reaction than the gene implanted via a virus- it should be a lot safer to just introduce cells with the gene instead of altering large sections of tissue in the human body. here's the enzyme they are talking about that is doing the good work:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neprilysin
  • If this works in humans, old age could be a much happier time of life.

    Ummm.... huh? Two problems I have with that sentence:
    1.) Granted, I'm 34, so I'm not talking from experience, but from what I gather [webmd.com] old age is already a happier time of life.
    2.) If I'm interpreting the sentence correctly, the sentence is implying that most of the time when people reach old age they get Alzheimer's. If that is true, then I need a reality check because I didn't know that.

    • 2.) If I'm interpreting the sentence correctly, the sentence is implying that most of the time when people reach old age they get Alzheimer's. If that is true, then I need a reality check because I didn't know that.

      Certainly nobody dies of "old age" anymore. It is always something like Alzheimer's or cancer or heart failure or complications from the treatment of something like that. We've already cured the simpler afflictions, and are now basically dismantling the whole "planned obsolescence" aspect of human biology.

    • by polyex (736819)
      It is common. I have had some first hand experience with my Father on this one. It seems like many of his old friends either have this or vascular dementia as well (which looks similar but is different). Its not a scientific observation, but I kind of get the feeling if you manage to not kill yourself or get killed, and avoid the the heart attack and cancer route in your old age, you may find this at the end of the road. Your right about younger people getting it, I know that a politician recently contracte
    • by vidarh (309115)
      If you survive to old age today, most people die of either cancer or heart disease or get dementia of one form or another that either eventually kills them or leaves them with so little brain function it's an academic point anyway (i.e. Alzheimers, where patients might spend years in almost vegetative states before dying, often as a result of decay because they might have spent years unable to even walk).

      I believe it's a reasonably even split between the three, though I might be mistaken, and Alzheimers m

  • Where are they getting the brains to implant?!?
    • by Detritus (11846)
      "Knock, Knock"

      "Who's there?"

      "Candygram"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by megaditto (982598)
      From your skin. And not 'brains' but connective tissue cells (fibroblasts) that are easy to grow.

      It sounds pretty good but I am afraid it will not cure the disease. Permanent damage and the tissue/functionality lost are not restored, so I am afraid we would still need stem cells for a proper AD cure.
    • If I ever needed a brain donor, I would want it to be you. I after all prefer my brains relatively new and unused!
  • Great News (Score:5, Insightful)

    by polyex (736819) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @08:37PM (#20406365)
    I feel strongly that your mind is the most important part of your body. Its truly what makes you unique,. This research progress is great news. I just wish there was some way to get my Father treatment. Someone once told me that one of the toughest time for a child is when he realizes his parents are mortal. Over the last couple of years I have had to watch a brilliant man slowly disintegrate into a shell of his former self (all the while knowing what was happening to him and that he really had no where to escape to). If you have a heart attack, you sometimes can do something about it, with better lifestyle eating etc. or even cancer, you can fight it with therapy and perhaps have the hope to be free of it. Not the case with this disease, and the worst part is that you know its happening to you as its slowly robs you and your loved ones of your last sanctuary, yourself. Dealing with this first hand has certainly had an effects on me and my outlook on life in ways that were not apparent to me at first. Any kind of progress against this disease simply makes my day.
  • by tfoss (203340) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @08:52PM (#20406493)
    First off, here's the actual article [plosjournals.org], which was published in PLoS Medicine (meaning free access for everyone, yay).

    Whether this accomplishment (and it is a pretty cool accomplishment) will be meaningful for people is very uncertain. First of all, Alzheimer's is not a positive diagnosis, that is you diagnose it by the absence of other explanations for observed behavior. So you don't actually have a way of confirming that the mental defects of a patient are *really* due to a-beta deposits. Unlike many diseases, we can't (yet) test blood or tissue or do imaging studies to confirm a-beta deposits (though there is tons of effort being spent on developing such tests). So you'd have to decide to do a pretty serious procedure on (generally) elderly people in less than ideal health on the basis of a flimsy diagnosis. It might well be worth it, but it is a big question.

    Moreover, though, we don't really know what causes the neurodegeneration associated with amyloid diseases. We know that deposits or a-beta or tau tangles (or light-chain or huntingtin, or SOD or transthyretin [wikipedia.org] (which was the topic of my thesis work) or whatever amyloidogenic protein you like) correlate well with neurodegeneration. But whether those are the cause or not is still a very open question. In fact there is plenty of research around that suggests that amyloid deposits themselves are not damaging, but the precursors in the aggregation pathway are the real culprits. Some have even suggested that amyloid is a more or less inert structure that can be used to segregate potentially dangerously unstable proteins away from the rest of the cell.

    So, supposing this treatment does everything perfectly, chops up a-beta and disintegrates plaques, *and* we can deliver it to correctly diagnosed patients, we still might not even be hitting the right target.

    Not to be too down on this topic, but we are still quite a long way from a treatment, much less a cure.

    -Ted
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      ^^ Exactly. I work in a lab at Harvard studying mechanisms thought to be responsible for eliminating aggregates (such as those in AD) from the cell, and there's no evidence that this is where toxicity comes from. Shutting down these processes doesn't have any effect on the progression or lifespan of mice with ALS, Huntington's disease, or Prion infection. I'm still looking into AD and Parkinson's, but all signs point to no effect at the moment.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by skoaldipper (752281)

      [..]or whatever amyloidogenic protein you like) correlate well with neurodegeneration. But whether those are the cause or not is still a very open question.

      Didn't they link mad cow disease to a protein as well? I believe they ruled out microbial agents there as the principiant. So, if the common post symptomatic link is protein deposits, then what are some of those possible precursors leading to them?

      Personally, I never understood the need for aluminum in any bio absorbable product. In part, that's why I

      • by tfoss (203340)

        Didn't they link mad cow disease to a protein as well?

        Yes, it is PrP. Prions are a rather strange phenomenon (a nobel [nobelprize.org] worthy one) where you have an infectious agent that nothing more than a protein. Generally infectious agents are living things (parasites, bacteria, viruses (if you can call those live)), but prions are simply a normal protein we all have in our bodies that has acquired a different structure. This structure is extremely stable, and when ingested or inserted into other animals is able to initiate the transformation of normal PrP to misfolded

  • My greatest fear in life is forgetting important things - forgetting what makes me wake up every morning, forgetting the good in people, forgetting those close to me. I know some old people for whom I'd gladly shed off years of my life if it meant they could touch more people the way they touched me. Alzheimer's has always been the one thing that I've prayed they could avoid. So, I ask you Slashdotters - do you know of any way I can help here? Can I donate money to this cause somehow? What can _I_ do?
    • So, I ask you Slashdotters - do you know of any way I can help here? Can I donate money to this cause somehow? What can _I_ do?

      Well, it's probably not feasible for you to single-handedly contribute significant funding to such a cause, and I believe organisations already exist to solicit charitable donations to help those afflicted with Alzheimer's. If you feel as strongly about eradicating such biological horrors as Alzheimer's as you seem to, might I suggest you take a somewhat longer view and volunteer your time trying to get the next generation of students excited about science? Work is already in full swing on many of our cu

  • Am I the only one who read "receive" instead of "relieve"?
  • Removing amyloid. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Climate Shill (1039098) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @10:22PM (#20407123) Journal
    There's been a method for removing amyloid plaques from the brain since 2002. Elan Pharmaceuticals produced a vaccine [bbc.co.uk] which stimulated the immune system to produce antibodies against amyloid. Unfortunately, it's a cure, and cures are bad for business, so Elan abandoned it.
    • Well, if the vaccine kill the patients, then I suppose that can be called a 'cure' in some perverted way.

      I'm not afraid of death. I have been dead for billions of years before I was born.
      • Well, if the vaccine kill the patients [...]

        Which it doesn't. Or was that some kind of joke I didn't get ?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pclminion (145572)

        I'm not afraid of death. I have been dead for billions of years before I was born.

        A bit off topic, but I wanted to respond to this. Think about it. Before you existed, there were billions of years of nothing. And presumably, after you die, another eternity of nothing. So basically the world looks like this:

        Nothing... Nothing... Nothing... flyingfsck exists... Nothing... Nothing... Nothing.

        Notice that "flyingfsck" is special in this scenario -- he (she?) is the one who comes into being, and then dies

        • by MLease (652529)
          How do you get from here to there? As far as I can tell, his philosophy is more or less, "The universe got along fine without me for billions of years, and will do the same after I'm gone." (which is basically my own position). He didn't say anything about being special or nothingness preceding or following his existence; he merely observed that he's not afraid of death because he was, in effect, in that same state before.

          -Mike

          • by pclminion (145572)

            How do you get from here to there? As far as I can tell, his philosophy is more or less, "The universe got along fine without me for billions of years, and will do the same after I'm gone." (which is basically my own position). He didn't say anything about being special or nothingness preceding or following his existence; he merely observed that he's not afraid of death because he was, in effect, in that same state before.

            I'm not making a comment on the fellow's ego. It just stimulates me to think. If

        • by geekoid (135745)
          Actually, before there exists there wasn't even nothing to you. There can't be nothing unless you are able to recognize something.
          Non-existence is not nothing.
    • by bcwright (871193)

      First of all, as far as I've seen the vaccine is NOT a cure in the sense of reversing the effects and restoring lost mental function, but at most of halting the progression - though even that is still under evaluation, since it's by no means clear that simply removing the plaque is enough to stop the disease process. Not that a treatment that halted the progression of the disease wouldn't be a very good thing, but it's not the same thing as a cure.

      Secondly, the vaccine has NOT been abandoned, as far as I

      • by juhaz (110830)

        Thirdly, in what sense would a cure be "bad for business"?!
        A cure is one-shot deal. Once you're cured, you're cured and no longer cash cow. Bad for business.

        In fact they could stand to make a good deal of money if a cure could be found!
        Only if it's cure or nothing, but when you're comparing a cure and treatment it's pretty obvious which makes good deal more money. One injection, or one daily for twenty years?
        • There's also tremendous value to business to be the first one to find a cure for AD. Maybe their existing drugs will become obsolete, but exclusive patents will feed the company for years to come, not to mention all the accolades and awards that come with the accomplishment. In a competitive market, which I believe the "innovate-or-go-under" drug industry is pretty damn near, this type of collusion to stop inventing treatments can hardly be pulled off.
        • by bcwright (871193)

          A cure is one-shot deal. Once you're cured, you're cured and no longer cash cow. Bad for business. [...] when you're comparing a cure and treatment it's pretty obvious which makes good deal more money. One injection, or one daily for twenty years?

          There isn't even a particularly useful treatment, pharmaceutical or otherwise, for Alzheimer's, let alone a cure - so your argument is specious on its face.

          Besides, the pharmaceutical industry as a whole is by no means averse to producing curative drugs; that's what antibiotics and vaccines are, for example. The pharmaceutical industry isn't a single monolithic company or some kind of corporate cooperative; if one of them can produce a drug that's useful, they stand to make a good deal of money fro

    • by geekoid (135745)
      "Unfortunately, it's a cure, and cures are bad for business, ..."
      Not true at all. a simple cursory look at the pharmaceutical industry and it become very obvious that a cure ahs more profitability in the long run, and in the short run.
      Facts:
      1) People running large corporations are concerned about making money NOW.
      If a cure is found, that could rake in billions in profit a few short years. Meaning that the executives get big FAT bonuses, the CEO gets even a BIGGER fat bonus, and share holders get more money.
  • Why would you want to relive Alzheimer's damage?

    Sick bastards.
  • another unfortunate thing about alzheimers is it could often
    be misdiagnosed. Since we don't test for CJD in this country,
    we will never know :(

    I wonder if the occurence of Alzheimer's is lower in countries that
    do test (like England).

    Both diseases are awful, but it appears there is some relationship:
    http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0107-07.htm [commondreams.org]
  • ...are the de-plaqued mice now able to read the paper, recognize their grandchildren, and cook and clean after themselves? If not, what's the point?
  • That's what I thought this article was about at first. Oh well, I'll keep hoping.

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

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