Virtual Reality Exercise Games May Improve Cognition in Older Adults

Scientists in the US today revealed the finding of a clinical trial investigating the effects of “exergaming”, or virtual reality-enhanced exercise, on cognition in a group of older adults. The study, one of the first trials of its kind, showed greater cognitive benefit for those who played exergames than those who took part in traditional exercise.

Of those participants who were enrolled, 63 completed the three month study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. All of the volunteers, aged between 58 and 99 years, rode exercise bikes an average of three times a week. Half of the volunteers rode a traditional exercise bike, whereas half rode a bike equipped with a virtual reality display. This ‘cybercycle’ provided users with 3D tours and allowed them to compete against an avatar of their last performance.

The volunteers were given cognitive assessments at the start of the study and after one and three months. Although there was no difference in exercise frequency, duration and intensity between the two groups, the cybercyclists performed better on a number of cognitive tests. In addition, fewer of the cybercyclists went on to develop mild cognitive impairment, a state of early cognitive impairment not quite severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia.

The scientists also analysed blood samples from 30 of the volunteers for a protective protein called brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF). They found higher levels of the BDNF protein in the blood of the cybercyclists than those taking traditional exercise, suggesting that virtual reality-enhanced exercise may stimulate a greater physiological effect in the brain.

Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We already know that exercise is an important way to keep body and mind healthy. The results from this small study suggest that combining physical and mental exercise through exergaming could have even more beneficial effects on cognition in older adults than normal exercise alone. Larger and more detailed studies will be needed to get to the bottom of exactly what aspect of exergaming could be giving the benefit, but the early results are very interesting.

“Although it may be unrealistic to expect people to invest in exergaming technology, the findings show that both mental and physical exercise are important in keeping our minds active in old age. With 820,000 people in the UK already living with dementia, and an increasingly ageing population, it is important that we invest in research into preventative strategies that could help to maintain our cognition for that little bit longer.”

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Coleraine Researchers Find New Drugs Boost Brain Cell Growth

Scientists in Northern Ireland have found drugs that mimic some of the actions of insulin may encourage the growth of new brain cells. It’s hoped the study, funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, could pave the way for the design of new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at the University of Ulster’s Coleraine Campus studied the effects of two compounds in mice. These compounds were designed to imitate the effects of a hormone called glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP), which helps cells to release insulin.

It’s known that people with diabetes, who are unable to produce enough insulin or are unable to use insulin properly, have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Previous research has suggested that GIP may also help protect the brain, and the team in Coleraine set out to discover what effect compounds that mimic GIP could have on the brain.

Led by Dr Emilie Faivre – who was supported by a PhD Scholarship award from Alzheimer’s Research UK – the scientists used healthy mice to test two compounds called (Pro3)GIP and D-Ala2GIP. One group of mice was given a single injection of one of the two compounds, or a saline solution, while a second group received daily injections for 30 days. They discovered that for both compounds, daily injections improved communication between brain cells and triggered the growth of new cells in part of the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for memory. The mice also showed a small improvement in some learning and memory tasks.

The results are published in the European Journal of Pharmacology. The scientists now want to further investigate the compounds to find out whether they may be useful as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.

Dr Faivre said:
“We were excited to see that the compounds we studied appear to have beneficial effects for the brain, but we now need to find out what effect they might have in Alzheimer’s disease. We know that diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, and if we can understand exactly how these compounds work in the brain, we could also uncover new clues about the links between these two diseases. We still desperately need an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, and I hope our results could take us a step closer to that goal.”

Prof Christian Hölscher, who co-authored the study, said:
“Finding ways to protect brain cells and keep them communicating could be an important step forward for fighting Alzheimer’s. More research is needed before these compounds could be tested in people, and the next step will be to investigate what causes them to affect the brain in this way. Dementia can only be defeated through research, and we hope these findings could eventually open the door to new treatments.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“These findings could be an important first step towards the development of new treatments for Alzheimer’s, and we now need to see whether drugs like this are able to help people with the disease. There are 16,000 people with dementia in Northern Ireland alone, yet research into the condition is desperately underfunded. It’s vital that we invest in research so that we can build on results like these, giving us a better chance of taking new treatments from the lab to the clinic.”

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Nicotine Patches May Slow Progression to Alzheimer’s

Scientists in the US today announced clinical trial results showing that nicotine patches may improve cognitive performance in elderly people with early memory problems. The findings could take scientists a step closer to the development of new treatments to tackle dementia.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, was completed by 67 volunteers. All of the volunteers were non-smokers and had mild cognitive impairment (MCI), thinking and memory problems not yet severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia. Half of the volunteers wore a transdermal nicotine patch for the six month trial, while half wore a placebo patch which did not contain nicotine.

Nicotine, a chemical found in tobacco, is known to stimulate nerve cells in the brain – one reason why cigarettes are so addictive. Some of the nerve cells which are stimulated by nicotine in the brain play a role in preserving cognitive function and these cells can have trouble firing in people with Alzheimer’s. This had led some scientists to believe that nicotine may hold a clue to how to get these cells firing again.

Over the course of the trial, the volunteers took several different types of memory and performance test and the researchers followed their performance. The results showed that, although there was no significant difference in overall improvement between those with nicotine patches and placebo, volunteers with the nicotine patch performed better on specific tests of long term memory and attention.

Although a nicotine-based therapy is unlikely to prevent or cure the disease, the scientists hope it could in future present a way of slowing the progression from MCI to Alzheimer’s and treating some of the symptoms of the disease.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“This small study looks promising as people with MCI treated with nicotine patches showed improvements in several cognitive tests. Larger and longer term studies will be needed to get a bigger picture of the potential of nicotine-based treatments in Alzheimer’s. As we know, nicotine is highly addictive and smoking can increase our risk of Alzheimer’s as well as other serious diseases, and so we must interpret the results sensibly.

“We hope that the findings can push scientists towards developing safe and effective therapies to tackle dementia, and with 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, this need has never been greater.”

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Stacey Solomon Gets It Right for Cambs Charity in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

Stacey Solomon, who shot to fame in The X Factor in 2009, has won £12,500 for Great Shelford-based Alzheimer’s Research UK, on ITV’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Stacey sat in the hot seat for the Celebrity New Year Special, broadcast on Tuesday 3 January, and teamed up with comedian Lee Mack.

Stacey and Lee faced show host, Chris Tarrant as they attempted to reach the million. Between them they won £50,000 with 50% going to a lucky phone-in caller at home and the remaining 50% split between each celebrity’s chosen charity.

Recently-engaged Stacey, 22, has become a national sweetheart since rising to fame. As an ambassador for Iceland Foods, she decided to raise money for the frozen food giant’s Charity of the Year for 2011, Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Stacey said:
“I’ve watched the show on telly loads and shout out the answers. But it’s scary when you’re actually in the hot seat. Winning thousands of pounds for an amazing charity like Alzheimer’s Research UK is just fantastic.”

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, added:
“This makes a brilliant start to the New Year and we can’t thank Stacey enough for this marvellous windfall. This huge contribution will pay for hundreds of hours of pioneering research and vital equipment for our scientists, bringing us closer to finding ways to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure dementia.

“It’s wonderful to have Stacey’s continued support as an ambassador for Iceland Foods. In December we were thrilled to learn she was releasing a Christmas single to boost our funds – a cover of Driving Home for Christmas – now this, it’s incredible!

“Over 6,000 people in Cambridgeshire are living with dementia today and 820,000 across the UK, with numbers forecast to increase significantly in the next generation. Research is the only answer but funding lags far behind that of other serious diseases. We rely entirely on our wonderful supporters to fund our vital dementia research, including people like Stacey, staff at Iceland Foods and our many fundraising volunteers in Cambridgeshire.”

To help Alzheimer’s Research UK defeat Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, donate online at www.alzheimersresearchuk.org or call 01223 843899.

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Stem Cell Technology Reveals Clues to Alzheimer’s

Scientists in the US have used stem cells from patients to overcome the challenge of obtaining live brain cells, allowing them to learn more about the causes of Alzheimer’s. The study, published online today in the journal Nature, provides new opportunities for scientists to model the complex disease.

Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, are cells which have been taken from one part of the body and can be reprogrammed into other cell types. They allow scientists to overcome the challenge of obtaining live cells from the brain – as they can take skin cells from people and transform them into brain cells.

The scientists used iPSCs to investigate what goes wrong in brain cells of people with both late-onset Alzheimer’s, and those with familial Alzheimer’s – an inherited form which tends to affect people at a younger age. Skin cells (or fibroblasts) were obtained from two people with familial Alzheimer’s, two people with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and two people without dementia to act as controls. The fibroblast cells were transformed into brain nerve cells in the lab and the scientists looked for features of Alzheimer’s in these cells.

The study showed that nerve cells derived from the two volunteers with familial Alzheimer’s and one of those with late-onset Alzheimer’s produced high levels of amyloid and tau, two characteristic proteins involved in Alzheimer’s. They also produced high levels of a protein called active GSK-3β which can be responsible for turning tau into its more toxic form. They also found that one particular inhibitor of amyloid production could reduce the levels of all three proteins in these cells.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Induced pluripotent stem cells have the potential to provide a great resource for scientists to study diseases such as Alzheimer’s – where getting access to human brain cells to study is a huge challenge. The authors have shown that these cells can reveal vital clues about the biological changes taking place during Alzheimer’s and we hope further studies can expand on these early findings.

“In light of the recent European ban on patents using human embryonic stem cells, it may prove important to increase our use of technology using these non-embryonic stem cells. We hope that studies like this one will drive scientific research forward and help us to understand the biology behind different forms of Alzheimer’s and test new treatments. With 820,000 in the UK living with dementia, the need for such research has never been greater.”

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Bath Scientists Secure £220k Funding Boost for Dementia Research

A major research project into the role of iron in dementia with Lewy bodies is getting underway in Bath, thanks to grants worth £220,500 from two charities dedicated to funding dementia research. Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s research charity BRACE have teamed up to fund a unique three-year project that could bring new understanding of the disease.

Led by Prof David Brown, the scientists at the University of Bath will study a protein called alpha-synuclein, which accumulates in the brain in dementia with Lewy bodies, as well as other diseases such as Parkinson’s.

Dementia with Lewy bodies is the third most common cause of dementia, affecting about 100,000 people in the UK. People with the disease experience distressing symptoms such as hallucinations, problems with movement similar to Parkinson’s disease and ‘cognitive fluctuations’ – variations in alertness, attention and thinking skills.

Until recently, the normal role of alpha-synuclein has been poorly understood, but Prof Brown and his team have discovered that the protein helps convert iron into a form that can be used by cells. Cells need a certain amount of iron to function properly, and the scientists believe that alpha-synuclein’s normal activity may help protect brain cells. They now want to find out what happens to this activity when the protein begins to accumulate.

One theory suggests that as the protein builds in the brain, it may stop working properly, leading to a lack of iron that can be used by cells. Alternatively, as the amount of alpha-synuclein increases, its activity may also increase, leading to a surplus of iron in the brain. By finding the answers to these important questions, the scientists hope to gain new insight into the chain of events that causes cell death in dementia with Lewy bodies.

Prof Brown said:
“We’re extremely pleased to have secured this funding, which will allow us to gain a much better understanding of some of the processes that occur as alpha-synuclein builds in the brain. Discovering this protein’s normal role was a crucial step forward, but this funding will enable us to investigate what goes wrong in this process. If we can understand what goes wrong in cells as diseases like dementia with Lewy bodies take hold, we stand a much better chance of finding ways to stop those diseases in their tracks.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We’re delighted to be supporting this important project, which could bring us vital new information about a disease that has so far been under-researched. This study could greatly enhance our understanding of the causes of dementia with Lewy bodies, potentially giving us new clues for the development of treatments that could really benefit people.

“It’s especially pleasing to be able to work with such a well-regarded local charity to fund this project, and we hope this partnership could help us make real progress towards our common goal of defeating dementia. With more than 2,000 people affected by dementia in Bath and North East Somerset alone, there is an urgent need for research projects like this one.”

Mark Poarch, chief executive of BRACE, said:
“It’s wonderful to be able to partner Alzheimer’s Research UK and to fund this vital work at Bath University. Some of the most ground breaking research into dementia is being undertaken here in the South West. BRACE is proud to be helping some of the brightest minds in medical research beat this terrible disease.”

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Cambridge Scientists Use Down’s Syndrome Stem Cells to Model Alzheimer’s

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed a new and innovative way to study Alzheimer’s disease in the lab. The stem cell technique, which allows researchers to track the disease over a matter of weeks, could provide a valuable tool for scientists to unravel the complexity of Alzheimer’s and test potential new treatments. The findings, funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Wellcome Trust, will be published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The scientists used skin cells donated from healthy volunteers and those with Down’s syndrome and turned them into stem cells. These stem cells were then used to generate networks of functioning nerve cells in the lab, which resemble the complex wiring of cells in the human cerebral cortex. The cortex, which makes up over three quarters of the brain, houses many of the nerve cells involved in memory and thinking and suffers particular damage during Alzheimer’s.

People with Down’s syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, a segment of DNA that carries a gene responsible for producing the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid. Due to this extra version of the gene, people with Down’s syndrome have a much higher incidence of Alzheimer’s than the rest of the population. By generating nerve cells from skin cells of people with Down’s syndrome, the scientists could observe the disease process over a period of weeks and compare this to those cells derived from healthy volunteers.

Dr Rick Livesey, who led the study at the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge, said:

“One of the biggest challenges facing dementia researchers at the moment is a lack of good ways to track the disease over time. By using stem cells donated from people with Down’s syndrome – who are much more likely to develop Alzheimer’s – we have been able to track how the disease develops over a shorter time period than has been possible in the past.”

Within 28 days, the nerve cells made from people with Down’s syndrome showed more than double the amount of the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid than those from healthy volunteers and this built up into amyloid plaques within two months. The scientists also observed that a protein called tau became abnormally altered and distributed in the cells- one of the common later-stage characteristics of the disease.

Dr Livesey added:

“What is promising about this stem cell technique is that we can create functioning human cortex cells in a dish, allowing us to more closely model what is happening in our brains. Not only this, but our new model shows many of the characteristic features of human Alzheimer’s disease and will allow us to test new treatments more easily.”

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, welcomed the findings. He said:

“We are pleased to have contributed funding towards this study and we hope it can be used to unravel some of the remaining questions about how Alzheimer’s progresses. Modelling a complex disease like Alzheimer’s is a big challenge, but innovative approaches like this can improve our understanding. As the stem cells in this study were donated by people with Down’s syndrome, they differ genetically to the rest of the population, but could still offer valuable insight into the disease processes in Alzheimer’s.

“Increasing our understanding of dementia is essential not only for people with Down’s syndrome, but for the 820,000 people across the UK living with the condition. It is essential that we improve the models that we have for understanding dementia, but this can only be done through research. As dementia research is so desperately underfunded, we must invest now if we are to find the answers that are so urgently needed.”

For further information, or to speak with Dr Rick Livesey or Dr Simon Ridley, please contact Laura Phipps, Science Communications Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 01223 843304, mobile 07500 803936 or email press@alzheimersresearchuk.org  

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Uk Scientists Uncover New Clues for Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

Scientists in Nottingham have found abnormal levels of seven different proteins in spinal fluid could act as markers for detecting Alzheimer’s disease. The study, which was part-funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, could lead to the development of a new test to detect the disease in its early stages.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham’s Human Genetics department and Nottingham Trent University’s John van Geest Cancer Research Centre studied samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to look for potential markers of Alzheimer’s. They compared CSF samples from 33 people with Alzheimer’s disease, 20 healthy older people and ten people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – a condition that causes problems with memory and thinking, but not to an extent that interferes with daily life.

Dr Baharak Vafadar-Isfahani and her colleagues first analysed each CSF sample to build a profile of the proteins it contained, and looked for patterns that could distinguish between people with Alzheimer’s and healthy people. They found people with the disease tended to have higher levels of four specific proteins, and lower levels of three other proteins, suggesting that together they could act as markers for the disease.

One protein in particular, called SPARCL1, was the strongest predictor for the disease. When the CSF samples were tested for changes in SPARCL1 alone, the researchers were able to detect whether a person had Alzheimer’s disease with 65% accuracy. When they checked for abnormal levels of all seven proteins, accuracy improved to 95%. The discovery of SPARCL1, amongst other proteins, resulted from the application of technologies developed at the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre.

The scientists then tested their findings on a new set of CSF samples, taken from 32 healthy people and 30 Alzheimer’s patients. All seven markers taken together were able to detect Alzheimer’s within this new cohort with 85% accuracy.

The researchers now plan to use their results, which are due to be published online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on 7 February, to help develop a blood test that could diagnose Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages.

Prof Kevin Morgan of the University of Nottingham, who co-authored the study, said: “Our results have given us a new lead for improving early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. An early diagnosis would not only help people prepare for the future, but would also enable people to be involved in clinical trials at a much earlier stage, when new treatments are more likely to have a positive effect.

“It will also be important to investigate what causes these specific proteins to change as Alzheimer’s develops. If we can understand the biochemical changes that occur during Alzheimer’s, we stand a better chance of developing new treatments that can tackle the disease. Dementia can only be defeated through research, and I hope these findings could take us a step closer to that goal.”

Professor Robert Rees, the Director of the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre at Nottingham Trent University, said:“The results of this study were obtained using analytical techniques to generate complex protein profiles from patient and control samples, coupled with advanced data analysis. We believe these findings will prove extremely important in allowing us to gain further insight into this disease.”

Dr Marie Janson, Director of Development at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Improving diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is a key target for scientists, and these important findings have opened up a new avenue for research. Alzheimer’s can be difficult to diagnose in the clinic, as memory problems on their own can be due to a variety of reasons. This study has the potential to help create a vital tool for doctors to identify patients that need further investigation – but these results must now be followed up in order to achieve that goal.

“Currently 820,000 people are affected by dementia, yet for many people a diagnosis comes too late. If we are to improve diagnosis for future generations, we must invest in research now.”

For further information, or to speak with Prof Kevin Morgan or Dr Marie Janson, please contact Kirsty Marais, Media Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 01223 843304, 07826 559233 or email press@alzheimersresearchuk.org

To speak with Prof Robert Rees or Prof Graham Ball, co-authors of the study, please contact Dave Rogers, Senior Press Officer at Nottingham Trent University on 0115 848 8782 or email dave.rogers@ntu.ac.uk 

The study was supported by Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Big Lottery Fund and the EU FP6 Program through BIOPATTERN.

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Men at Higher Risk of Mild Memory Loss in Old Age

US scientists have found that men may be at higher risk than women of mild cognitive impairment – a stage that often precedes dementia. The study is published online in the journal Neurology.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, studied 1,450 people between the ages of 70 and 89, for an average of three years. Participants took part in evaluations every 15 months to assess whether or not they had mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI causes problems with memory and other thinking skills, but not to an extent that interferes with everyday life. Roughly half of all people who are diagnosed with MCI go on to develop dementia, usually Alzheimer’s disease, within five years.

Over the course of the study, 296 people were diagnosed with MCI, but the researchers found that men were more likely to develop the condition than women. The results were surprising because previous research has shown women are more likely to develop dementia than men.

Further analysis showed that MCI with memory loss – known as amnestic MCI – was more common than non-amnestic MCI, where memory loss is not a major symptom. People who had less education or were not married were also more likely to develop MCI. The scientists suggest that further research could reveal whether different risk factors affect separate groups of people in different ways.

Dr Marie Janson, Director of Development at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“These surprising results suggest that men may be at greater risk for MCI despite having a lower risk for dementia, and it will be important to see whether further studies can replicate these findings. A key goal for research is to identify why some people with MCI develop dementia while others don’t. If we can understand why some people have a greater risk for cognitive decline and dementia, we stand a better chance of being able to prevent the condition.

“With 820,000 people affected by dementia, and a rapidly ageing population, the need for research to find new ways to treat and prevent the condition has never been more urgent.”

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Brain Changes Could Predict Alzheimer’s Earlier

Scientists in Finland have discovered changes in the brain that may signify the transition between early memory problems and Alzheimer’s. The study, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, opens up new avenues for improving early diagnosis of the disease and identifying people at risk.

The researchers from the VTT Technical Research Centre examined factors which could predict whether someone with early memory problems, called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), would go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists performed a prospective study, taking blood samples from 143 people diagnosed with MCI, 37 people with Alzheimer’s disease and 46 healthy controls and followed the participants for up to 31 months.

Blood samples were analysed for their content of ‘metabolites’- small molecules found in body tissue and fluid involved in chemical reactions. There are a number of factors which can shift the balance of metabolites in the body, including age, diet, and disease. By looking at the profile of different metabolites in the blood of the volunteers, the scientists could identify signatures of particular molecules which were most associated with each state of health.

At follow up, 52 out of the 143 people who started the study with MCI had progressed to Alzheimer’s. Analysis of their biochemical signature showed changes in a metabolic pathway – called the pentose phosphate pathway – was associated with this transition. The study highlights the role metabolites could play in developing new techniques for earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, or predictions of who may go on to develop the disease.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“With many billions of chemical reactions happening in our body all the time, metabolites present a gold mine of potentially useful information for scientists. This study presents promising early results that biochemical signatures in blood could aid in the identification of people at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The study has highlighted important biological pathways which should be investigated further.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is funding similar studies to understand more about the profiles of metabolites and how they could help us develop new ways to defeat dementia. With 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia, there is a desperate need to learn more about the changes taking place in the body and we must invest in research now if we are to make the strides which are urgently needed.”

For further information, or to speak with Dr Simon Ridley, please contact Laura Phipps, Science Communications Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 01223 843304, mobile 07500803936 or email press@alzheimersresearchuk.org

  • Alzheimer’s Research UK is the UK’s leading charity specialising in finding preventions, treatments and a cure for dementia.
  • To help us defeat dementia, donate today by visiting www.alzheimersresearchuk.org or calling 01223 843899.
  • We are currently supporting dementia research projects worth over £18 million in leading Universities across the UK.
  • Research discussed is ‘Metabolome in progression to Alzheimer’s disease’ M OreÅ¡ič et al., Translational Psychiatry (2011)

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New Type of Alzheimer’s Drug Shows Promise in Mice

Scientists in the US have designed a new Alzheimer’s drug which has been shown to improve memory in mice. The mechanism of the drug is thought to differ from most others in development and provides a new direction for treatment research.

The scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California used the chemical structure of the curry spice curcumin to design a set of new drugs. They found one of these drugs, called J147, was particularly effective at protecting rat brain cells from the toxic effects of stress seen in the brain during Alzheimer’s.

The drug could also promote the activity of brain cells in the lab and enhance the ability of rats to remember objects in an object recognition task. In mice generated to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, the drug could improve performance on a memory task and reduce some of the signs of the disease.

Most of the drugs currently under development for Alzheimer’s target a protein called amyloid, known to build up in the brain during the disease. However, many of these drugs have shown disappointing results when tested in humans. The J147 drug was not designed to target amyloid, but to promote activity of brain cells and strengthen communication between them.

The researchers, whose work is published in the journal PLoS ONE, hope that this drug will show promise in further tests and could provide a new strategy for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“With an estimated half a million people in the UK living with Alzheimer’s, there is a pressing need to develop new and effective drugs. The study has shown promising effects of the J147 drug in mice, now the test will be to see whether these benefits could transfer safely into humans.

“We hope that there will be enough interest and investment from drug companies and other funders to take on this challenge and transform initial findings like these into real patient benefits.”

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Stacey Solomon in Race for Xmas No.1 for Cambs Charity

Stacey Solomon, who shot to fame in The X Factor in 2009, releases her first Christmas single today (19 December) to boost funds for Great Shelford-based charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK and children’s hospices charity Together For Short Lives.  Stacey will go head-to-head for the festive number one spot with this year’s X Factor winners, Little Mix.

After recording a cover of Driving Home for Christmas for an Iceland Foods advert, fans started to ask where they could buy it. Stacey decided to release her version of the song to raise money for Iceland’s charity of the year Alzheimer’s Research UK and for children’s hospices.

Recently engaged Stacey, 22, has become a national sweetheart since rising to fame and is the face of Iceland Foods in their advertising campaigns. Stacey said:

“If I got the Christmas number one it would be the best feeling in the world. I’d be ecstatic! But I don’t think I’d be able to look Simon Cowell in the eye.

“Christmas is a time for giving, so I’m thrilled to raise money for two amazing charities.”

Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, added:

“Stacey’s single has come as a wonderful surprise and we wish her every success in claiming the number one spot for Christmas. Every copy sold will bring us nearer to finding preventions, new treatments and an eventual cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

“It’s brilliant to have Stacey’s support and to know that everyone at Iceland Foods is behind us too in our drive to defeat dementia. Iceland chose us as its Charity of the Year for 2011 and their support has been incredible – they’ve surpassed their pledge to raise £1million for our research into early-onset Alzheimer’s. Support from businesses like Iceland plays a key part in helping us progress our world-class research. 

“Over 6,000 people in Cambridgeshire live with the reality of dementia today but investment into research lags far behind other serious diseases. Dementia poses one of the greatest threats to public health now and in the future. We rely entirely on our wonderful supporters to fund our vital dementia research, including people like Stacey, Iceland Foods and our many fundraisers in Cambridgeshire.”

Stacey Solomon’s debut single Driving Home for Christmas is now available in stores and to download online at http://itunes.apple.com/gb/preorder/driving-home-for-christmas/id485387553 

If you wish to speak to Rebecca Wood or have any questions for Stacey Solomon, please contact Sue Armstrong, Media Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK on 01223 843304, 07500 119514 or email s.armstrong@alzheimersresearchuk.org.

 Iceland Chief Executive Malcolm Walker can also provide a column outlining his Everest challenge and why Iceland Foods is supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK, contact as above.

The Queen’s Head Raises £200 for Alzheimer’s Research UK

Customers flocked to The Queen’s Head, in Harston, on 27 November to enjoy a Battle of the Brains quiz, and raised £200 for Great Shelford-based charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK. Pub landlord Ken Culpeck had a night off pulling pints to act as quiz master for the fun filled evening.

Ken, who took over The Queen’s Head in September, talked about the Battle of the Brains quiz night and the motivation for supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK:

“It was a fantastic evening! The quiz pack made it really easy and the ready prepared questions meant I didn’t have to think them up myself. As soon as people heard we were raising money for Alzheimer’s Research UK, it struck a chord and the sign up list filled up very quickly. Nearly everyone seems to know someone affected by Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.”

“There was lots of friendly rivalry and laughter between the teams and our picture round with celebrity chefs proved particularly popular. To add to the fun, local businesses donated prizes for a super raffle, which contributed to our fundraising total of £200 towards more pioneering dementia research.

“The Battle of the Brains winners, the Tricky Trees, were presented with bottles of wine. Eddie Gray on the losing team took charge of the consolation prize, a wooden spoon, but still went away smiling. It was great having an event with such a positive focus, to help defeat dementia.”

Eddie Gray, a regular customer at The Queen’s Head and Chair of the Newton Parish Council, said:

“Although my team lost, we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I’m so pleased we’ve helped to raise money for the research experts, Alzheimer’s Research UK.”

“My mother had a long struggle with Alzheimer’s. It’s a devastating disease and it was very sad to see her gradually get more and more confused. It was made even worse knowing there was very little that could be done to help her. The only way we’re going to get to the root of the problem is through research.”

Miranda Mays, Community Fundraising Manager for Alzheimer’s Research UK, added:

“We really appreciate all the efforts made by Ken and his staff at The Queen’s Head together with everyone who attended the Battle of the Brains quiz – it’s a brilliant result! The money raised will pay for another ten hours of vital dementia research and bring us closer to finding ways to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure dementia.”

“Over 6,000 people in Cambridgeshire live with the reality of dementia today but investment into research lags far behind other serious diseases. Dementia poses one of the greatest threats to public health now and in the future. We rely entirely on our wonderful supporters like Ken to fund our vital dementia research.”

For a free Battle of the Brains quiz fundraising pack contact Alzheimer’s Research UK on 01223 843899 or email fundraising@alzheimersresearchuk.org.