Harvard Medical School

When being a control freak is a very good thing

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Think of a very uncomfortable subject that you don’t like to talk or even think about.

By any chance was that subject death?

Grim ReaperIf it is, you’re not alone.  Given the option of getting a root canal or talking about our eventual demise, many would leap into the dental chair.  Why?  What’s so yucky about death?  It’s an inevitable outcome of our life experience here on earth.  To my knowledge, no one has successfully hidden from the grim reaper when it came knocking at their door.  So what’s the big deal?  I’ll tell you what’s the big deal.

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Mice are our friends

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Allen Institute scientists try to decode mouse brain to understand our own | Local News | The Seattle Times.

DSC00021It’s not often – or ever – that I would tout the beauty and benefits of mice, especially since where I live in a very rural part of my city, mice are a force with which to be reckoned during their annual winter attempts to seek warmth in crawl spaces, attics, and home interiors.

Today, however, I am making a one-time exception because it appears that mice brains have become very valuable in the medical and science worlds’ attempts to map the human brain, and mapping the human brain contributes to the effort of solving brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  I’ll leave it up to you to read the full article, attached above, because my efforts at summarizing scientific jargon would fall short of doing that science justice.

What I will say, however, is that I am extraordinarily excited that valid attempts are being made to decipher the science of our brains; attempts that generate hope in the lives of those of us who have personally experienced the destruction of a loved one’s brain by Alzheimer’s – a disease that I’ve been known to call “a murderer.”  Read my article, Alzheimer’s disease is a murderer to understand the full impact of my feelings on the subject matter.

I know that a lot of behind the scenes research is being done to eradicate a disease that is always fatal, but we aren’t always privy to what that research looks like.  I’ve read numerous horrific statistics about the numbers of people who have – and will have – Alzheimer’s in the years to come.  Part of those statistics include the detailed monetary impact on society as a whole, as well as the personal and emotional costs to each of us who have dealt with, and who have yet to deal with, the disease’s intrusion into our lives.

I congratulate the Seattle Times and the New York Times, for publishing the above article.  And I sincerely thank the Allen Institute for Brain Science for taking on a task whose efforts will benefit every last one of us in this country, and around the world.

You are my hero Paul Allen.  Keep up the good work.

Crenezumab: a drug that might prevent Alzheimer’s.

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Pharmacy Rx symbol
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a NY Times piece, Testing a Drug that may stop Alzheimer’s Before it Starts, it was announced that a drug, Crenezumab, is set to be tested early next year on families who carry the single genetic mutation for Alzheimer’s  – people who are genetically guaranteed to suffer from the disease years from now but who do not yet have any symptoms.  Most of the 300 participants for this study will come from one extended family of 5,000 members in Medellin, Columbia who have been horrifically affected by this disease throughout their extended family.

This Colombian family’s story is presented in an astonishing video within the article’s link above.  For decades, these family members started showing Alzheimer’s symptoms in their mid-40’s and the progression was so rapid that they advanced to full-blown dementia by the age of 51.  The effects on a society, and a family’s dynamics, is eye opening to say the least.  Let’s face it, in this video when a Colombian pre-teen is shown feeding his father, the role reversal is unmistakable.

The Study’s 300 family member participants will be years away from developing symptoms – with some being treated as young as 30 years old – but the hope is that if this drug forestalls memory or cognitive problems, plaque formation, and other brain deterioration, scientists will have discovered that delay or prevention is possible.

This drug trial has a long road ahead of it, but the study will be one of only a very few ever conducted to test prevention treatments for any genetically predestined disease.  In an Alzheimer’s world where very little good news is forthcoming, it’s nice to see even a slight glimmer of hope.