Alzheimer's Researchers Convene at Global Conference in Denmark

A failing sense of smell and sight may be an early indicator of Alzheimer's Disease. That is just one the latest revelations in groundbreaking studies that researchers revealed in Denmark Wednesday, where leading scientists are gathered this week to share their findings.

"We really saw four studies that were involved in the biomarkers of the sensory organs. And if you have a reduced ability to identify smells this may indicate cognitive impairment," said Dr. Keith Fargo of the Alzheimer's Association International Conference.

Researchers also revealed a large scale intervention trial, to improve memory and thinking, a new abnormal protein that may explain why some get dementia and some do not, but still no cure.

"So if you chart research funding, deaths. So we know we need to ramp up that research funding for Alzheimer's and dementials today and to do it in the next ten years," said Sue Friedman of the Alzheimer's Association for Central and Western Virginia.

Dr. Fargo said that Congress, the Senate and the President have actually been on the same page for once, passing a plan to find a cure for Alzheimer's by 2025, but without the funding to go with it scientists are stymied. Dr. Fargo said the disease will break both Medicare and Medicaid financially unless more funding is brought forward and soon-but he believes it is possible. He says the decrease in deaths for cancer, HIV AIDS and heart disease diseases is proof.

This is a press release about the conference:

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK, July 16, 2014 - Results from four research studies reported as "developing topics" at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2014 (AAIC 2014) in Copenhagen include significant advances in evidence regarding treatment and early detection of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, as well as new ideas in the basic brain science of dementia that may lead to new diagnostic and treatment targets."Developing topics" at AAIC are authorized late submissions to the conference and often include last-minute calculations and data analyses. More than 150 developing topics abstracts were accepted this year out of the 2,431 total scientific presentations at AAIC 2014. Following are four particularly noteworthy submissions:

  • A two-year clinical trial in Finland of a multi-component lifestyle intervention in 1,260 older adults at risk for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's showed that physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, social activities and management of heart health risk factors improved cognitive performance, both overall and in separate measures of executive function, such as planning abilities, and the relationship between cognitive functions and physical movement.
  • A randomized trial in the U.K. involving family caregivers of people with dementia tested a short psychological support program delivered by graduate students. The intervention significantly reduced caregivers' anxiety and depression, and this impact lasted for two years. At AAIC 2014, the scientists also will report on the impact of the program on costs of care.
  • In a post-mortem study of more than 340 brains of people identified after death as having Alzheimer's disease-related changes, researchers identified that a third abnormal protein, known as TDP-43, may play an important role in Alzheimer's along with well-known beta-amyloid and tau proteins. People with TDP-43 were 10 times more likely to have been cognitively impaired at death than those without it.
  • A study in which cognitively normal seniors were measured for brain tau protein levels using positron emission tomography (PET) scans showed that memory decline was linked with higher levels of tau buildup in several brain regions, demonstrating the potential value of these scans in early detection of dementia and in identifying participants for research studies.
  • "AAIC is the premiere Alzheimer's and dementia research conference, and this year's developing topics are exciting both in their scope and in their findings," said Keith Fargo, Ph.D., Alzheimer's Association director of Scientific Programs & Outreach. "The science covers a lot of ground -- from the first large-scale, long-term clinical trial of a lifestyle-based treatment regimen, to an early detection technology that tracks well with cognitive decline, to a possible new target for therapy, which also is a possible explanation of why some people have Alzheimer's brain changes but no dementia. The study on the brain protein TDP-43 clearly demonstrates the value of basic research to feed the front end of the drug pipeline."With the support of the Alzheimer's Association and the Alzheimer's community, the United States created its first National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease in 2012. The plan includes the critical goal, which was adopted by the G8 at the Dementia Summit in 2013, of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer's by 2025. It is only through strong implementation and adequate funding of the Plan, including an additional $200 million in fiscal year 2015 for Alzheimer's research, that we'll meet that goal. For more information and to get involved, visit Changes Improve Memory and Thinking in At-Risk Older Adults in Two-Year Clinical TrialResearchers have observed a number of modifiable risk factors associated with increased risk of late-life cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease, but recent short-term prevention trials focusing on single, isolated risk factors have had modest results, at best. Longer, larger, better controlled trials looking at modifying multiple risk factors have been needed.At AAIC 2014, Miia Kivipelto, M.D., Ph.D., Professor at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland, and colleagues reported on the results of the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER), a two-year randomized controlled trial of 1,260 participants age 60 to 77 with modifiable risk factors for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's. Randomized controlled clinical trials are considered the "gold standard" for demonstrating treatment efficacy and safety.Participants were divided into two groups; one received an intervention that included nutritional guidance, physical exercise, cognitive training, social activities, and management of heart health risk factors, while the control group received regular health advice. After two years, the intervention group performed significantly better on a comprehensive cognitive examination. In addition to performing better overall, the intervention group did significantly better on specific tests of memory, executive function (complex aspects of thought such as planning, judgment, and problem-solving), and speed of cognitive processing."This is the first randomized control trial showing that it is possible to prevent cognitive decline using a multi-domain intervention among older at-risk individuals. These results highlight the value of addressing multiple risk factors in improving performance in several cognitive domains," said Kivipelto. "Participants told us their experience was very positive, and dropout rate only 11 percent after two years."The researchers say an extended, 7-year follow up study is planned, and will include measures of dementia/Alzheimer's incidence and biomarkers including brain imaging with MRI and PET.Psychological Intervention for Family Dementia Caregivers Reduces Anxiety, Depression, and CostsTwo-thirds of people with dementia live at home, with family members providing most of their care. About 40 percent of family caregivers have clinical depression or anxiety. At AAIC 2014, Gill Livingston, M.B.Ch.B., M.D., F.R.C.Psych. and colleagues at University College London reported on the effectiveness of START (STrAtegies for RelaTives), a standardized, manual-based psychological intervention delivered to dementia caregivers and family members by psychology graduate students.Keith Fargo, Ph.D., director of Scientific Programs and Outreach at the Alzheimer's Association discussed the featured findings during a teleconference with the media on Wednesday. During the interactive discussion, Dr. Fargo, said the most critical part of preventing and finding an eventual cure for the disease, which he said will "affect 16 million Americans by mid-century," is "funding." Dr. Fargo, said that Congress and the Senate passed a bill which the President signed in 2010 to find a cure for the disease by 2025, but Fargo said without the proper funding for scientists, that won't happen. "The only way we're ever going to get to an answer to these very good questions is by giving the scientists the tools to get the job done for us." Fargo ended the media teleconference saying that the message he wanted to spread, was one of "hope." He pointed out that other leading causes of death in the U.S., such as heart disease, cancer and at one time HIVAIDSs, have decreased, all due to tremendous funding efforts. Fargo, said in order for a real impact to be made in Alzheimer's research, scientists have asked for two billion dollars a year. Without that proper funding, he said, the disease will break Medicare and Medicaid in this country.