Alzheimer's | St. Louis Public Radio

Alzheimer's

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For years, doctors have used an expensive brain scan to detect symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. 

But researchers at Washington University have found that a simple blood test could be similarly effective, according to a study published this month in the journal Neurology. A blood test to diagnose early symptoms could help make finding a cure easy or cheaper and even guide treatment for the disease in the future, the study’s authors say. 

The Food and Drug Administration has warned a St. Louis area company to stop marketing supplements such as omega-3 capsules as potential cures for diseases. It says doing so violates federal law, because supplements aren't FDA-approved drugs.
rawdonfox | Flickr

The federal Food and Drug Administration has ordered a St. Louis-area natural-remedy retailer to stop making medical claims on its website.

Chesterfield-based Earth Turns, L.L.C. claimed on its website that certain products could cure or prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s or diabetes, wrote the FDA in a letter to the company. Retailers are only allowed to make such claims about government-approved drugs, the letter said, and such claims could put patients at risk.

The study examined over 580,000 patient records collected over a 20-year period and found women were more likely to survive a heart attack when treated by a female doctor than a male doctor.
Maria Fabrizio | NPR

African-Americans have lower levels of a key protein associated with Alzheimer's disease, which could keep blacks with the disease from being diagnosed, according to Washington University researchers.

In a 12-year study of 1,255 participants, the researchers found black patients have a much lower baseline level of the protein tau, which is present in higher amounts in patients with the neurodegenerative disease. Because doctors look for the protein when diagnosing Alzheimer's, lower levels in black patients mean they may not be diagnosed as quickly as their white counterparts.

As a result, black patients — already disproportionately affected by the disease — may not receive proper care, the study's authors said.

Producers of "Forget Me Not" are hoping to inspire audience members to  connect with local health professionals and learn more about Alzheimer's. 8/1/18
African-Americans Against Alzheimer's

When actors in the play "Forget Me Not" take the stage tonight at the Grandel Theatre in St. Louis, they’ll have an important mission. They aim to raise awareness that African-Americans have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s disease than whites, and to provide tips about how to recognize the symptoms of the brain disease.

Playwright Garrett Davis, who heads the North Carolina-based theater troupe Gdavis Productions, wrote the play — produced by African-Americans Against Alzheimer’s — as an educational aid. The group is part of the national advocacy organization Us Against Alzheimer’s.

Katie Lefton, who studies neuronal networks, adjusts a yogi's pose in Forest Park during scientists' 'Active for AD' fundraiser on Thursday, June 21, 2018.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Thursday was the summer solstice, and the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association marked the occasion with a 24-hour fundraising blitz.

The organization’s Longest Day fundraiser is a national event that collects money to research the disease as well as support patients and their caregivers. Friends and family conduct sponsored activities such as bike rides, bowling tournaments and even drag shows.

What are the latest advances in sleep research? On Thursday, "St. Louis on the Air" tackles the subject.
Jon Huss | Flickr

St. Louis researchers have found that people who suffer from a lack of sleep could increase their risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ron Himes, Beverly Foster and Dr. John Morris discussed how Alzheimer's disease impacts African-American patients and families.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

African-Americans over the age of 70 are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as white people. While there are no answers, said Dr. John Morris, director of the Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University, there are some factors that might be contributing to this gap.

Norris Roberts,  Lonni Schicker and Stephanie Rohlfs-Young discussed Alzheimer's disease and caregiving on "St. Louis on the Air."
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

This segment originally aired on ​St. Louis on the Air on Sept. 8, 2016. It will be rebroadcast at 10 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2017.

Norris Roberts’ mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease nine years before she died. Over that time period, Roberts and his father tried to do everything right.

Every other week, they’d take her to the beauty shop she always went to so she could socialize. They bought her similar-styled clothes when the old ones no longer fit. They even kept up her tradition of Sunday night family dinners.

Daisy Duarte and her mother, Sonia. The two appear in an upcoming PBS documentary, "Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts."
The Duarte family

Daisy Duarte estimates that three quarters of her family have died from a genetic form of Alzheimer’s disease that takes hold in middle age. When her own mother became ill, Duarte closed the sports bar she owned to become her full time caregiver.

“She just had a heart of gold. And then to see her where she’s at now, it just hurts so much,” said Duarte, 41. 

Duarte and her 61-year-old mother, Sonia, appear in an upcoming PBS documentary about the search for a cure to Alzheimer’s.

WashU biomedical scientist G.S.M Sundaram, PhD., holds a model of the molecule fluselenamyl, which may improve PET scans for patients with Alzheimer's disease. Senior author Vijay Sharma, PhD, sits to his right.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Think of the night sky when you look up through the smog of the city. Then, think of that same sky on a clear night in a rural area.

That’s the difference between two images of a 90-year-old man’s brain, after he passed away and donated his body to Alzheimer’s disease research. Both scans are dark blue, with points of light showing plaques consistent with the disease. But the sharper image uses a new compound developed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis. 

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health

Scientists have identified a chemical that could one day be used in eye drops to treat cataracts — potentially eliminating the need for expensive surgery, the only treatment option currently available.

The research team was led by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor but included researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle and Washington University in St. Louis. The group found that eye drops made with a type of steroid could partially reverse cataracts in mice.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt meets with people Feb. 20 at Washington University's Alzheimer's Research Center in St. Louis.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt says that he wants to use his key position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to boost funding for research.

The Republican senator recently became the chairman an Appropriations subcommittee that controls federal funding for the National Institutes of Health. He said during a visit to Washington University’s Alzheimer’s Research Center that he wants to make funding for the agency a priority.

conner395 / Flickr

Starting today the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department is rolling out a new tool aimed at helping authorities locate residents who have wandered away from caregivers.

St. Charles County residents can purchase a wristband with a radio tracking device that law enforcement can then use to locate people who have wandered away from their homes.

Deputy Sheriff Steve Case said the new system has proven effective in other parts of the country.

US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

Dementia is the broad term which refers to diseases which result in a significant loss of cognitive ability.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the worst manifestations of dementia.

A symposium at Washington University in St. Louis this week aims to be a gathering place for people struggling to find balance and dignity among the chaos of dementia.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 15, 2013 - Inflammation is a major aspect of many chronic diseases, ranging from some heart conditions to epilepsy, scientists and researchers are discovering.  And as they have learned more, they have realized that inflammation causes much more damage than formerly thought.

What is inflammation? It is the body’s response to a noxious stimulus; picture that painful red swelling around a bacteria-laden splinter.

(via Wikimedia Commons)

Another study has shown a link between disrupted sleep patterns and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at Washington University looked at 32 people who have what’s known as “preclinical” Alzheimer’s disease. They have a marker in their spinal fluid associated with Alzheimer’s, but they still don’t have any symptoms of dementia.

Wash U neurologist and sleep specialist Yo-El Ju says when she and her colleagues compared those people to 110 healthy controls, they found the two groups slept about the same amount.

Alex Monti Fox

When Stefania Silvestri was 14 years old and living in Chesterfield, her father, who was 48 years old, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

At that time Silvestri, her mother, and two sisters became caregivers.

Host Don Marsh talked with Silvestri about her struggle at such a young age and how her father progressed into more severe forms of dementia.  Her memoir is, “Beside the Mountain: Finding Strength and Courage Through My Father's Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease.”

Tammie Benzinger, MD, PhD, Tyler Blazey/Washington University

Washington University will soon lead a clinical trial aimed at preventing people with Alzheimer’s disease from developing dementia.

The international trial will involve 160 patients in the U.S., Europe, and Australia who have a very rare, inherited form of Alzheimer’s, which typically causes dementia before age 50.

Washington University neurologist and study lead Dr. Randall Bateman says this is one of the first clinical trials to try to treat Alzheimer’s patients before they have any symptoms.

US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

Finding effective treatments and a cure for Alzheimer’s disease is elusive.  While most of what we hear about the disease is depressing, we may be on the threshold of some exciting discoveries concerning prevention.  Washington University’s School of Medicine is in the middle of this new research and this hour, host Don Marsh is joined by Dr. John Morris, Director of Washington University’s Alzheimer’s Research Center, to talk about clinical trials aimed at preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 17, 2012After a dozen or so years of marriage, Virginia Benson’s vibrant husband George started asking strange questions.

“What did we do yesterday? We’re going somewhere today -- do I know the people?” Virginia Benson remembered.

In addition to the story we reported this afternoon, NPR's Jon Hamilton offers this report on another development in Alzheimer's research.

New research takes step toward catching Alzheimer's early

Jul 11, 2012
Washington University scientists found that a lack of sleep could increase the protein amyloid beta, a protein linked to Alzheimer's disease.
The New England Journal of Medicine ©2012

A new study led by Washington University confirms that the brains of people with a very rare, early-onset form of Alzheimer's disease begin to change long before they first show signs of dementia.

The research brings us a step closer to early diagnosis of the more common type Alzheimer's that produces symptoms after age 60.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

The Missouri House is debating all 13 bills this afternoon that make up the state’s proposed budget for next year.

Lawmakers are offering up several amendments to the budget – one in particular would have shifted $150,000 from the state’s biodiesel fund to Alzheimer’s patients.  It was sponsored by State Rep. Tracy McCreery (I, Olivette).

(Image courtesy National Institute on Aging)

A new marker for Alzheimer's disease can be used to predict how quickly a patient will develop memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.

Researchers at Washington University measured levels of a marker called visinin-like protein 1 in in the spinal fluid of 60 patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's then tracked their symptoms for three years.

Neurologist Dr. Rawan Tarawneh, now at the University of Jordan, led the study.

Changes in marker for Alzheimer's linked to sleep cycle

Sep 26, 2011
(Via Wikimedia Commons user Nephron)

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine have shown a relationship between daily sleep patterns and a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers found that levels of the beta amyloid protein in spinal fluid increased during waking hours and decreased during sleep.

Wash U neurologist Randall Bateman says that pattern was strongest in young, healthy test subjects. It lessened in people over sixty, and disappeared altogether in Alzheimer’s patients.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 20, 2011 - Mark Stelzer first noticed the problem when he had to do spreadsheets for his job at Boeing. He seemed increasingly dependent on pen and paper to follow directions.

"They couldn't figure out why he couldn't remember more than one or two instructions at a time," remembered his wife Judy Stelzer. "It got to the point where he was writing everything down and he was doing nothing but (documenting) what he was doing on each step."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 18, 2011 - In 1906, Auguste Deter, a patient of German psychiatrist and neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer, said in describing her illness: "I have lost myself." Since that time, scientists have been searching for a cure for Alzheimer's, the thief that robs individuals of their very essence.

There may be help on the horizon -- drugs that can stop the debilitating disease in its tracks. Dr. John Morley, an expert in geriatrics, is using the "c" word cautiously.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 4, 2011 - Susan Rava's account of her and her husband John's parents' serial affliction with Alzheimer's disease strikes a reader with affecting and occasionally numbing force.

"Swimming Solo, A Daughter's Memoir of Her Parents, His Parents and Alzheimer's Disease" published by Plateau Books, traces the mental and physical disintegration of four men and women, active, responsible members of the community, beloved of their children and grandchildren.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 29, 2010 - This year produced promising medical advances in the battle against Alzheimer's disease. First came word that scientists had come up with a new test for making more precise diagnoses of the disease. That news was followed this month by the announcement of a discovery of a relationship between an abnormal level of a plaque-forming substance in the brain and Alzheimer's.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 26, 2010 - The hot, unforgiving Missouri sun beats down on a lost man. Although just a few miles from home, the man does not know where he is and has no recollection of how he got to where he is. He stands, scared and confused, pondering how he lost his way, but he still can't muster a single memory of his journey there.

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