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Medicine

Scientists Find New Target For Alzhiemer's 107

Posted by kdawson
from the good-news-i-forget-why dept.
GarryFre writes "Neurological researchers at Rush University Medical Center have found a new therapeutic target that can potentially lead to a new way to prevent the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The target called neutral sphingomyelinase (N-SMase) is a protein which, when activated, can cause a chain of reactions in the cell leading to neuronal death and memory loss. Already a substance has been found that shows some promise in halting the progression of the disease."
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Scientists Find New Target For Alzhiemer's

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  • My grandfather died of alzheimers.
    But atleast i have no heridity for alzheimers.
  • Why does Alzheimer's have to sound so much like "Old timers" when said? It's prejudice against old people!

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      When they were learning to talk, "old timer's disease" is how my kids mispronounced it. But as to "prejudice against old people", unlike arthritis, only old timers get alzheimer's.

      Luckily for me nobody in my family has had alzheimer's, but arthritis is rampant. I've had arthritis since I was a teenager. I'd far rather have arthritis than be even suceptable to alzheimer's, especially now that I'm getting older.

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @11:06AM (#33675782)

    I admit being truly scared of alzheimer's.

    It may be completely irrational, but cancer looks much less scary in comparison.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Look on the bright side: Anybody who get's Alzheimers forgets their fear of it before long.

      • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @11:15AM (#33675920)
        Never known anyone with the disease have you?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by digitalhermit (113459)

        Heck, there are plenty of bright sides. It's postively a glowing sphere of joy.

        You get to hide your own Easter eggs.

        Every day you meet new people.

        You never worry about stuff. Car? What car?

        (I kid, I kid... but laughter *is* the best medicine.)

        • And you don't need to buy new books. Just read the same one over and over again.

          Unless you're Terry Pratchett; it won't be long before he writes the same one again.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by thedonger (1317951)

            And you don't need to buy new books. Just read the same one over and over again.

            Unless you're Terry Pratchett; it won't be long before he writes the same one again.

            You may be on to something. In addition to having to wait 22.3 years in order for a tragedy to become funny, there is also a certain window before hand during which it is also funny. IRT Alzheimer's, one might say, "[that author who committed suicide recently whose name I have forgotten] cured his Alzheimer's - with a bullet! What? Too soon?" Maybe a year (or ten - Alzheimer's is tricky that way) from now Terry Pratchet will be alive but suffering more from the disease, at which point the reception of your

          • by tandelaf (953116)

            And you don't need to buy new books. Just read the same one over and over again.

            LOL... then I have Alzheimer's already. It's called "a heavy case of ADD". I can even watch the same movies every 1 or 2 years and enjoy myself again. I also read and learn and then forget my new "knowledge". Some stuff sticks, but never too much... that's why I have to be studying constantly in order to stay competitive (in every aspect). My grandma died with Alzheimer's. I wonder if there's a relation between the two.

      • by tandelaf (953116)
        Right on... the point is that if you get Alz you will not suffer because you won't realize anything, much contrary to cancer. Only those who love you will suffer IF at all. I'm somehow different though because my grandma had Alz and I never suffered about it because I knew she wasn't suffering conciously. For me it's all that matters.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by srussia (884021)

      I admit being truly scared of alzheimer's.

      It may be completely irrational, but cancer looks much less scary in comparison.

      You should take up smoking: Cigarettes delay onset of Alzheimer's disease [medicalnewstoday.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheLink (130905)
        Regularly super-sizing your McD meals can help prevent Alzheimer's. Heck it even reduces your chances of getting cancer.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by srussia (884021)

          Regularly super-sizing your McD meals can help prevent Alzheimer's. Heck it even reduces your chances of getting cancer.

          I'm being serious. Maybe one could use a nicotine patch instead. Here's another study: Beneficial effects of nicotine [wiley.com]

          From the abstract:

          "When chronically taken, nicotine may result in: (1) positive reinforcement, (2) negative reinforcement, (3) reduction of body weight, (4) enhancement of performance, and protection against: (5) Parkinson's disease (6) Tourette's disease (7) Alzheimers disease, (8) ulcerative colitis and (9) sleep apnea. The reliability of these effects varies greatly but justifies the

          • by TheLink (130905)
            <quote>I'm being serious.</quote>

            Yes I know.

            If you want serious, practically every human alive today is going to die. So the ones who go on very restrictive diets and lifestyles that they dislike just so that they last longer might be doing themselves a disservice. If they have a good reason for doing so, then go ahead, but if the only reason is just to last longer, that's a being silly.

            That's like trying to keep a car in pristine condition by hardly ever driving it (or even not driving it). If
            • by srussia (884021)

              If you want serious, practically every human alive today is going to die. So the ones who go on very restrictive diets and lifestyles that they dislike just so that they last longer might be doing themselves a disservice. If they have a good reason for doing so, then go ahead, but if the only reason is just to last longer, that's a being silly.

              Pick your poison with your eyes open :).

              p.s. I've heard of doctors telling 90 year olds to stop smoking. If I were a doctor, I might say, "hey have you ever tried a good Cuban cigar, think you might like one?". Of course I'd probably get sued to oblivion by their relatives if they actually keel over after puffing a cigar.

              Agree 100%. That's why I choose to smoke--and if it protects against Alzheimer's, that's just a bonus. I do not enjoy McD meals as much though.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by geekoid (135745)

            actually, you need a nornicotine patch.

            ProTip: Don't quote abstracts or conclusions of a study without a link to the actual study.

            Sadly, after you have read a lot of studies you find that some of the conclusion and abstracts do not accurate reflect that data. Usually because they don't bother to consult a biostatician. If they do, it's usually way to late into the study.

            Did you notice that one and two conflict? They is usually an indicator that the finding aren't above placebo. I haven't read the study, s

            • by srussia (884021)

              actually, you need a nornicotine patch.

              ProTip: Don't quote abstracts or conclusions of a study without a link to the actual study.

              There is a first time for everything~

              Glad to pop your cherry for you!~

              Nicotine is actually metabolized into nornicotine. And if you bothered to go the the linked abstract, the study itself is just a click away if you were really interested and not just being snarky~~

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I get it, because you die of other causes before you can develop it, just like with smoking! Go ahead, mod me redundant.
    • this kind of irrational thinking could be your onset of alzheimer's

    • by Rifter13 (773076) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @11:43AM (#33676212) Homepage

      In the end, all you truly have, is your mind. Who you are, who you were, and who you will be, is all in your mind. Cancer kills the body... Alzhiemer's kills who you are, and who you could be, destroying your memory of who you were...

      I agree, other diseases, such as cancer do not put as much fear into me, as much as Alzhiemer's.

      • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @12:23PM (#33676742)

        In the end, all you truly have, is your mind.

        I think, therefore I ... mmmmm pancakes

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 23, 2010 @01:22PM (#33677562)

        Alzhiemer's kills who you are, and who you could be, destroying your memory of who you were

        My Grandmother passed away this past December but had Alzheimer's for many years, progressively getting worse over time. In addition to what you list, I'd like to add that it has a large impact on those that care about the person. As my Grandmother's Alzheimer's state worsened, my mother and uncle (her only surviving children) became very frustrated in trying to care for her. Caring for someone that doesn't even know you is rough. Trying to hold a conversation, only to repeat it, knowing that it won't be remembered, is frustrating. You essentially care for the body of someone who "died" already.

        My family, probably like many others, has plenty of medical conditions to worry about. Alzheimer's is the one I fear above the others, not so much for what it will do to me, but for what it will do to those I love.

        Mij

        • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @04:03PM (#33679510) Journal
          In addition to trying to deal with someone who doesn't remember you, there can be major inter-family problem because at least some Alzheimers patients can no longer tell what happened from what they think happened, so you run into situations where the person says "why doesn't my son ever come visit me?" when the son in question is sitting in the room, and other family members, not realizing that the person is flat-out wrong, start resenting one another based on the testimony of, well, a crazy person.

          And then the patient starts saying the nursing staff is abusive, and that the doctor hurts her when he checks her out -- and who do you believe? because while you know your grandmother is now basically totally unreliable, you also know that the staff knows that too and if they *were* abusive, who would know? and so you run into situations where some family members are trying to keep the patient happy and others are saying the patient needs to be moved to another facility, and others are so upset about the whole situation that they've stopped even visiting...

          When my grandmother finally died, the sense of relief was palpable, and several years later, most all her relatives are friendly to one another again, and that was with a good nursing home, everyone living locally and visiting every week, and all of us talking regularly about the problems with each other to try to keep exactly this from happening.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by godel_56 (1287256)

          My Grandmother passed away this past December but had Alzheimer's for many years, progressively getting worse over time. In addition to what you list, I'd like to add that it has a large impact on those that care about the person. As my Grandmother's Alzheimer's state worsened, my mother and uncle (her only surviving children) became very frustrated in trying to care for her. Caring for someone that doesn't even know you is rough. Trying to hold a conversation, only to repeat it, knowing that it won't be remembered, is frustrating. You essentially care for the body of someone who "died" already. Mij

          I think Alzheimer's sufferers should consider euthanizing while they still have the capacity to make a rational decision. I would, under those circumstances, even if only to save the family and society from the burden of looking after a "living dead" person.

          BTW, for a possible cheap method of prevention, consider turmeric/curcumin.

          From http://www.bri.ucla.edu/bri_weekly/news_060206.asp [ucla.edu]

          "Turmeric is also being studied for its ability to help treat Alzheimer's disease. The prevalence of Alzheimer's among ad

          • I think Alzheimer's sufferers should consider euthanizing while they still have the capacity to make a rational decision. I would, under those circumstances...

            That's my plan too. I'm not at all suicidal, but I've been through this with my grandparents, and I very much hope I have enough presence of mind left to know when to eat the bullet or whatever to avoid ending up like that. It's just nasty for everyone, including the disease sufferer. They may not be fully aware of what's going on, but it doesn't stop them from being pissed off all the time, and seriously hateful and nasty to live with.

            Everyone loses.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        In the end, all you truly have, is your mind. Who you are, who you were, and who you will be, is all in your mind. Cancer kills the body... Alzhiemer's kills who you are, and who you could be, destroying your memory of who you were...

        I agree, other diseases, such as cancer do not put as much fear into me, as much as Alzhiemer's.

        That's what I thought. Then I saw someone dying of breast cancer that metastasized to various parts of the body. When enough parts start failing, your brain starts getting less of the chemicals it needs and more of the chemicals that cause problems. Yeah, I've seen non-brain cancer make a person lose memory of what they did a few minutes ago, collapse into confusion and incomprehensibility punctuated by short moments of complete lucidity, and finally lapse into a coma that ended in death.

        You know what? It

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday September 23, 2010 @11:49AM (#33676282) Homepage Journal

      It may be completely irrational, but cancer looks much less scary in comparison.

      They're both horrible diseases. Cancer is physically torturous, alzheimer's mentally torturous. Both are hell on the people who love the afflicted.

      There are no good ways to die, but those two diseases have to be among the worst ways.

      • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn&earthlink,net> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @01:30PM (#33677670)

        My father died of complications of Altzheimers.

        It was hell on my mother for years, but *he* seemed to enjoy it.

        (The complication was that a year or two after he had been "hospitalized" and gotten to the point where they had to strap him into the bed, one night he stood up in bed and fell out of it, landing on his head and breaking his neck.)

        Altzheimers is hard on those close to the patient, not so much on the patient. But this *does* depend on the form. Some people stay aware that they are losing their minds. My father never seemed to notice. I still remember him trying to seduce my wife while both my mother and I were in the room, he was confined to a bed. He was stroking her arm and telling her he didn't have any family...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ImprovOmega (744717)

        There are no good ways to die,

        I wouldn't say that. Running along, healthy as a horse then suddenly keeling over at age 80ish seems a pretty good way to go. Lingering deaths pretty much universally suck, but there are ways to die (naturally) that are quick, relatively painless, and don't cause long-term stress and suffering for those that love you.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Well, some folks do die in their sleep. But most deaths are pretty bad for the dying, and always bad for those left behind.

      • by velja27 (1427879)
        Well yea those two are pretty bad, but have you heard about the mushrooms that you eat only once? It's said that you suffer in pain, hallucinating worst scenarios and such horrible things and it seems(for the one affected it probably is) like an eternity. It lasts for three days. -I don't know which mushroom it is, or if it is as described but it is IMHO the worst death
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Funny that. My dad has both and if I had to pick I'd say the Alzheimer's, by a wide margin, is hardest on him and his family. Its not just the forgetfulness, which is only one symptom, its the dementia and the loss of basic skills. He more or less lives in a dreamworld, never sure where he is, when it is, who he is. Its worse at night and during the day he seems okay, but he has no idea what is going on. He will sometimes latch onto a conspiracy theory like believing some stranger he just met is trying t

  • I hope that we can come up with a good way to fight Alzheimer's. It is such a heart-wrenching thing to have a loved one have it.
    • Re:I hope (Score:5, Informative)

      by Defenestrar (1773808) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @11:25AM (#33676016)
      The type of Alzheimer's they talk about here is caused by ß-amyloidosis which is a mis folded protein disease (prion - like mad cow). What happens is that normal secondary protein structure is converted from an form to ß causing conformational changes in the protein's tertiary structure leading to insolubility (this insoluble protein is now called an amyloid). Supposedly the Rice researchers have found a way to prevent the ß-amyloid deposits from causing cell damage, however unless it's 100% efficient it won't be enough because misfolded proteins are "contagious" - that is they cause other normally folded protiens to convert to the insoluble misfolded amyloid which will proceed with exponential growth. Eventually you'll have every one of those proteins in the ß configuration.
      • Re:I hope (Score:4, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday September 23, 2010 @02:01PM (#33678086) Homepage Journal

        One would presume it would be regular medication, not a cure. This is just treatment for a symptom; which is a good thing.

      • While beta amyloid is like a prion in that the protein is "misfolded" and forms a tangled insoluble protein mass. It is not "contagious" like a prion disease. Beta amyloid is formed after cleavage of the amyloid precursor protein by alpha-, beta- and gamma- secretase.

        The current state of knowledge for Alzheimer's is still very hazy, for many years there has been a discussion whether amyloid plaques are the cause of Alzhiemer's or a symptom of some other problem. More pieces of the puzzle are continually b

  • I'm likely in line for alzheimers, but pretty sure my heart will kill me before I get there. Genetics is a bitch.

    Awesome for the rest of the world, though!

    • by geekoid (135745)

      If we can get ideological belief out of science, we could very well have the technology to grow you a new heart before yours quits.

  • Hope for Pratchett? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sparkycat (1703438) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @11:10AM (#33675834) Homepage

    It seems like Alzheimer's research is progressing surprisingly rapidly. I wonder if treatments will come soon enough to save the minds of people already in the early stages? Terry Pratchett in particular springs to mind.

    • And yet as we progress towards more and more people with the illness (it's a genetic dominant), and more and more expensive health care... who will eventually decide who gets the cure?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MightyMartian (840721)

        Well, if Ron Paul has his way, the rich, and maybe, if they're feeling generous that day, they'll pick a few poor people suffering from the disease. You know, a Libertarian paradise.

        • Modded troll, eh? Okay, Mr. Moderator, put on your Anonymous hat and tell me what exactly I wrote that was false?

          • by geekoid (135745)

            false does not mean troll.

            Putting a post with an irrelevant topic is.

            Not that I would have modded your post troll.

            • by mea37 (1201159)

              I bet if you try very hard, you can find a better moderation tag than "Troll" to use for "a post with an irrelevant topic".

              In fact, Troll roughly refers to a post that espouses an inflamatory point of view for the purpose of generating upset replies, rather than because the poster actually believes what he's saying and is trying to contribute to the conversation.

              Because it is often difficult to discern intent (some people really are nuts; and unlike the old days when trolling was a bit more sport than it is

        • by roman_mir (125474)

          Ron Paul's take on medical care and insurance [youtube.com] is sensible, why are you taking this against him in particular? Maybe that's why you were moderated as a troll.

    • by Qzukk (229616)

      It seems like Alzheimer's research is progressing surprisingly rapidly.

      Well of course it's moving quickly, this university's in a Rush.

    • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @11:18AM (#33675956)
      Pratchett has early onset which tends to be faster paced.
      • by AlecC (512609)

        But he actually seems in a pretty good state, as seen at the Discworld Convention a month ago. Not that nothing is happening, but the bits that make him Terry Pratchett are not being affected, and he is working round the others.

        • by malakai (136531)

          Not sure, I mean, I recently read "I Share Wear Midnight", and I felt that while writing the conclusion of the book, he forgot how he started out.

          I notice a lot of writers get this way the older they get, so it may not be the disease. He may simply be so well versed in his world he takes for granted what is put on the page, versus what is in his mind.

          That or evil editing deadlines.

      • Early onset Alzheimer is not "faster paced" than Alzheimer's in elder people. It causes an overall greater reduction of lifespan than Alzheimer's that affect elder people, because the sufferer dies relatively young, but the pace is about the same.

        In any case, it's a cruel disease, because it takes from you what is the most precious: your memory and your humanity.

    • by jimicus (737525) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @11:30AM (#33676074)

      I think it's fair to say Alzheimer's research is getting a lot more press than it was getting even three years ago - before Sir Pterry made his announcement. He's done an enormous amount to bring Alzheimer's into the public eye, whereas previously it was the sort of thing people talked about in hushed tones when discussing the fate of an elderly relative, frequently not even daring to say "Alzheimer".

      That alone has probably brought in more money for Alzheimer's research than anything else. Frankly, it's high time too. It's a cruel, cruel condition that I wouldn't wish on anyone. Not only does the sufferer slowly lose their mind, but their relatives get a ringside seat watching it happen in a sort of morbid horror show, unable to do a great deal but see the person they love die while their body keeps going.

    • I certainly hope so. I don't mind dying, but the thought of slowly slipping into a state of confusion where I forget my friends and family is what I fear most.
    • by Frans Faase (648933) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @01:12PM (#33677384) Homepage

      I think it is not progressing surprisingly rapidly. Because I do have a partner with Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease, I follow the scientic news announcements, and I have to say that this particular news announcement is like many that are made almost every month. This is only talking about a potential target. It does not even talk about a possible medicine. If a medicine is found, it usually takes at least five year before it could become available for the general public. Even if this is a valid target, it could still take several years before finding a medicine that only works on the target. So, it could still take ten years before a medicine based on this target could become available.

      Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive and fatal disease with an life expectancy of about 10 years after diagnoses. So, based on this facts I would conclude that this is no hope for Pratchett!

      It is true that Alzheimer's Disease is now where cancer used to be fifty years ago. What many people don't know is that the total costs for Alzheimer's Disease, in the Western world, are already larger than the total costs for cancer, and are expected to rise rapidly in face of demographic developments, especially in Europe.

    • for test tubes.
    • I work as a research coordinator on Alzheimer's clinical trials. On the one hand this has been a hard year with the announcement of the failures of Dimebond and Semagacestat. On the other hand it looks like biomarkers like PET imaging and cerebral spinal fluid proteins will help us catch the disease earlier.

      The Alzheimer's Association has a new service TrialMatch (1-800-272-3900) that can put you in touch with local clinical trials. Volunteering a great way to get information about the illness, potential

  • They could have found a new target for Alzheimer's, but no, it had to be its evil counterpart Alzhiemer's!
    Damn Alzhiemer's, hogging all our scientists' efforts...
  • The link indicates that a target is something that advances the cure. It isn't in this case, it is something that triggers the disease.

    Certainly if we can trigger the disease, we can start to look at how we can prevent the disease from being triggered; but, from reading the editors "contribution", you would think they advanced the treatment side of things. They haven't (yet).

  • If they want to pick a target for Alzheimer's, target Ted Stevens. That guy is loses a part of his mind every day!

  • Nice article (Score:5, Informative)

    by mesri (993588) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @11:50AM (#33676296)
    Pretty good article (the original in J. Neurosci). Alzheimer's has long been believed to be caused by aggregates of amyloid-beta protein, but exactly how they kill neurons (and in what stage of aggregation) has been pretty controversial. They showed a pathway from the amyloid-beta through this N-SMase to neuron death in small assemblies _and_ in larger aggregates, which should make everybody happy (or maybe no one). The important caveat though is that this was in vitro testing, and everything to do with studying Alzheimer's has been confounded by the subtle differences between in vivo and in vitro.
  • Yeah. It's called "Old People"

    NEXT.

  • Is THAT what the big fat idiot is funding? Too late!

  • My suspicious is these are co-symptoms of Alzheimers and not the real cause. The results may be limited.
  • by St.Creed (853824) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @04:00PM (#33679464)

    The magazine 'Cell' of 17-sep-2010, published research from an Australian research group showing that the plaques are caused by a chainreaction with APP (Ameloid Precursor Protein). This is caused by Zinc-ions blocking APP from functioning, so they can't remove iron from the brain (Fe2+). The iron causes the cells to die. Also, the APP is broken down and stored as plaques. These plaques cause more zinc to stack and disable even more APP, leading to a runaway chainreaction.

    note: I can't paste anything in this box or I'd post the link (Chrome is broken again or slashdot's javascript is braindead again). But do look it up. This looks like the key to the disease.

    • Seems OK here:

      http://www.cell.com/abstract/S0092-8674(10)00938-4 [cell.com]

      so... I read the summary and they don't seem to say why this extra zinc is there in disease patients.

      • by St.Creed (853824)

        True. That is the million-dollar question. Answer it and get very rich. And/or a Nobelprize, I think.

        Still, the fact that we now know that it actually IS a Zinc problem, and that iron in your diet is really bad once you get Alzheimer's, should be helpful in pointing out a place to start looking for answers. At least, instead of trying to figure out "why the plaques?", we can now focus on "why the zinc?".

  • I just read "Scientists Forget New Target For Alzhiemer's"... Freudian much?

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