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1.  Diverging patterns of amyloid deposition and hypometabolism in clinical variants of probable Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(3):844-858.
The factors driving clinical heterogeneity in Alzheimer’s disease are not well understood. This study assessed the relationship between amyloid deposition, glucose metabolism and clinical phenotype in Alzheimer’s disease, and investigated how these relate to the involvement of functional networks. The study included 17 patients with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (age at onset <65 years), 12 patients with logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia and 13 patients with posterior cortical atrophy [whole Alzheimer’s disease group: age = 61.5 years (standard deviation 6.5 years), 55% male]. Thirty healthy control subjects [age = 70.8 (3.3) years, 47% male] were also included. Subjects underwent positron emission tomography with 11C-labelled Pittsburgh compound B and 18F-labelled fluorodeoxyglucose. All patients met National Institute on Ageing–Alzheimer’s Association criteria for probable Alzheimer’s disease and showed evidence of amyloid deposition on 11C-labelled Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography. We hypothesized that hypometabolism patterns would differ across variants, reflecting involvement of specific functional networks, whereas amyloid patterns would be diffuse and similar across variants. We tested these hypotheses using three complimentary approaches: (i) mass-univariate voxel-wise group comparison of 18F-labelled fluorodeoxyglucose and 11C-labelled Pittsburgh compound B; (ii) generation of covariance maps across all subjects with Alzheimer’s disease from seed regions of interest specifically atrophied in each variant, and comparison of these maps to functional network templates; and (iii) extraction of 11C-labelled Pittsburgh compound B and 18F-labelled fluorodeoxyglucose values from functional network templates. Alzheimer’s disease clinical groups showed syndrome-specific 18F-labelled fluorodeoxyglucose patterns, with greater parieto-occipital involvement in posterior cortical atrophy, and asymmetric involvement of left temporoparietal regions in logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia. In contrast, all Alzheimer’s disease variants showed diffuse patterns of 11C-labelled Pittsburgh compound B binding, with posterior cortical atrophy additionally showing elevated uptake in occipital cortex compared with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The seed region of interest covariance analysis revealed distinct 18F-labelled fluorodeoxyglucose correlation patterns that greatly overlapped with the right executive-control network for the early-onset Alzheimer’s disease region of interest, the left language network for the logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia region of interest, and the higher visual network for the posterior cortical atrophy region of interest. In contrast, 11C-labelled Pittsburgh compound B covariance maps for each region of interest were diffuse. Finally, 18F-labelled fluorodeoxyglucose was similarly reduced in all Alzheimer’s disease variants in the dorsal and left ventral default mode network, whereas significant differences were found in the right ventral default mode, right executive-control (both lower in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and posterior cortical atrophy than logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia) and higher-order visual network (lower in posterior cortical atrophy than in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia), with a trend towards lower 18F-labelled fluorodeoxyglucose also found in the left language network in logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia. There were no differences in 11C-labelled Pittsburgh compound B binding between syndromes in any of the networks. Our data suggest that Alzheimer’s disease syndromes are associated with degeneration of specific functional networks, and that fibrillar amyloid-β deposition explains at most a small amount of the clinico-anatomic heterogeneity in Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3580269  PMID: 23358601
Alzheimer’s disease; posterior cortical atrophy; logopenic variant of PPA; positron emission tomography (PET); functional networks
2.  Expanding Disease Definitions in Guidelines and Expert Panel Ties to Industry: A Cross-sectional Study of Common Conditions in the United States 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001500.
Financial ties between health professionals and industry may unduly influence professional judgments and some researchers have suggested that widening disease definitions may be one driver of over-diagnosis, bringing potentially unnecessary labeling and harm. We aimed to identify guidelines in which disease definitions were changed, to assess whether any proposed changes would increase the numbers of individuals considered to have the disease, whether potential harms of expanding disease definitions were investigated, and the extent of members' industry ties.
Methods and Findings
We undertook a cross-sectional study of the most recent publication between 2000 and 2013 from national and international guideline panels making decisions about definitions or diagnostic criteria for common conditions in the United States. We assessed whether proposed changes widened or narrowed disease definitions, rationales offered, mention of potential harms of those changes, and the nature and extent of disclosed ties between members and pharmaceutical or device companies.
Of 16 publications on 14 common conditions, ten proposed changes widening and one narrowing definitions. For five, impact was unclear. Widening fell into three categories: creating “pre-disease”; lowering diagnostic thresholds; and proposing earlier or different diagnostic methods. Rationales included standardising diagnostic criteria and new evidence about risks for people previously considered to not have the disease. No publication included rigorous assessment of potential harms of proposed changes.
Among 14 panels with disclosures, the average proportion of members with industry ties was 75%. Twelve were chaired by people with ties. For members with ties, the median number of companies to which they had ties was seven. Companies with ties to the highest proportions of members were active in the relevant therapeutic area. Limitations arise from reliance on only disclosed ties, and exclusion of conditions too broad to enable analysis of single panel publications.
For the common conditions studied, a majority of panels proposed changes to disease definitions that increased the number of individuals considered to have the disease, none reported rigorous assessment of potential harms of that widening, and most had a majority of members disclosing financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Health professionals generally base their diagnosis of physical and mental disorders among their patients on disease definitions and diagnostic thresholds that are drawn up by expert panels and published as statements or as part of clinical practice guidelines. These disease definitions and diagnostic thresholds are reviewed and updated in response to changes in disease detection methods, treatments, medical knowledge, and, in the case of mental illness, changes in cultural norms. Sometimes, the review process widens disease definitions and lowers diagnostic thresholds. Such changes can be beneficial. For example, they might ensure that life-threatening conditions are diagnosed early when they are still treatable. But the widening of disease definitions can also lead to over-diagnosis—the diagnosis of a condition in a healthy individual that will never cause any symptoms and won't lead to an early death. Over-diagnosis can unnecessarily label people as ill, harm healthy individuals by exposing them to treatments they do not need, and waste resources that could be used to treat or prevent “genuine” illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
In recent years, evidence for widespread financial and non-financial ties between pharmaceutical companies and the health professionals involved in writing clinical practice guidelines has increased, and concern that these links may influence professional judgments has grown. As a result, a 2011 report from the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that, whenever possible, guideline developers should not have conflicts of interest, that a minority of the panel members involved in guideline development should have conflicts of interest, and that the chairs of these panels should be free of conflicts. Much less is known, however, about the ties between industry and the health professionals involved in reviewing disease definitions and whether these ties might in some way contribute to over-diagnosis. In this cross-sectional study (an investigation that takes a snapshot of a situation at a single time point), the researchers identify panels that have recently made decisions about definitions or diagnostic thresholds for conditions that are common in the US and describe the industry ties among the panel members and the changes in disease definitions proposed by the panels.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 16 publications in which expert panels proposed changes to the disease definitions and diagnostic criteria for 14 conditions that are common in the US such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and Alzheimer disease. The proposed changes widened the disease definition for ten diseases, narrowed it for one disease, and had an unclear impact for five diseases. Reasons included in the publications for changing disease definitions included new evidence of risk for people previously considered normal (pre-hypertension) and the emergence of new biomarkers, tests, or treatments (Alzheimer disease). Only six of the panels mentioned possible harms of the proposed changes and none appeared to rigorously assess the downsides of expanding definitions. Of the 15 panels involved in the publications (one panel produced two publications), 12 included members who disclosed financial ties to multiple companies. Notably, the commonest industrial ties among these panels were to companies marketing drugs for the disease being considered by that panel. On average, 75% of panel members disclosed industry ties (range 0% to 100%) to a median of seven companies each. Moreover, similar proportions of panel members disclosed industry ties in publications released before and after the 2011 IOM report.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, for the conditions studied, most panels considering disease definitions and diagnostic criteria proposed changes that widened disease definitions and that financial ties with pharmaceutical companies with direct interests in the therapeutic area covered by the panel were common among panel members. Because this study does not include a comparison group, these findings do not establish a causal link between industry ties and proposals to change disease definitions. Moreover, because the study concentrates on a subset of common diseases in the US setting, the generalizability of these findings is limited. Despite these and other study limitations, these findings provide new information about the ties between industry and influential medical professionals and raise questions about the current processes of disease definition. Future research, the researchers suggest, should investigate how disease definitions change over time, how much money panel members receive from industry, and how panel proposals affect the potential market of sponsors. Finally it should aim to design new processes for reviewing disease definitions that are free from potential conflicts of interest.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A PLOS Medicine Research Article by Knüppel et al. assesses the representation of ethical issues in general clinical practice guidelines on dementia care
Wikipedia has a page on medical diagnosis (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
An article on over-diagnosis by two of the study authors is available; an international conference on preventing over-diagnosis will take place this September
The 2011 US Institute of Medicine report Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust is available
A PLOS Medicine Essay by Lisa Cosgrove and Sheldon Krimsky discusses the financial ties with industry of panel members involved in the preparation of the latest revision of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which provides standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders
PMCID: PMC3742441  PMID: 23966841
3.  Inclusion of Ethical Issues in Dementia Guidelines: A Thematic Text Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001498.
Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) aim to improve professionalism in health care. However, current CPG development manuals fail to address how to include ethical issues in a systematic and transparent manner. The objective of this study was to assess the representation of ethical issues in general CPGs on dementia care.
Methods and Findings
To identify national CPGs on dementia care, five databases of guidelines were searched and national psychiatric associations were contacted in August 2011 and in June 2013. A framework for the assessment of the identified CPGs' ethical content was developed on the basis of a prior systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Thematic text analysis and a 4-point rating score were employed to assess how ethical issues were addressed in the identified CPGs. Twelve national CPGs were included. Thirty-one ethical issues in dementia care were identified by the prior systematic review. The proportion of these 31 ethical issues that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% to 77%, with a median of 49.5%. National guidelines differed substantially with respect to (a) which ethical issues were represented, (b) whether ethical recommendations were included, (c) whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and (d) to what extent the ethical issues were explained.
Ethical issues were inconsistently addressed in national dementia guidelines, with some guidelines including most and some including few ethical issues. Guidelines should address ethical issues and how to deal with them to help the medical profession understand how to approach care of patients with dementia, and for patients, their relatives, and the general public, all of whom might seek information and advice in national guidelines. There is a need for further research to specify how detailed ethical issues and their respective recommendations can and should be addressed in dementia guidelines.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
In the past, doctors tended to rely on their own experience to choose the best treatment for their patients. Faced with a patient with dementia (a brain disorder that affects short-term memory and the ability tocarry out normal daily activities), for example, a doctor would use his/her own experience to help decide whether the patient should remain at home or would be better cared for in a nursing home. Similarly, the doctor might have to decide whether antipsychotic drugs might be necessary to reduce behavioral or psychological symptoms such as restlessness or shouting. However, over the past two decades, numerous evidence-based clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) have been produced by governmental bodies and medical associations that aim to improve standards of clinical competence and professionalism in health care. During the development of each guideline, experts search the medical literature for the current evidence about the diagnosis and treatment of a disease, evaluate the quality of that evidence, and then make recommendations based on the best evidence available.
Why Was This Study Done?
Currently, CPG development manuals do not address how to include ethical issues in CPGs. A health-care professional is ethical if he/she behaves in accordance with the accepted principles of right and wrong that govern the medical profession. More specifically, medical professionalism is based on a set of binding ethical principles—respect for patient autonomy, beneficence, non-malfeasance (the “do no harm” principle), and justice. In particular, CPG development manuals do not address disease-specific ethical issues (DSEIs), clinical ethical situations that are relevant to the management of a specific disease. So, for example, a DSEI that arises in dementia care is the conflict between the ethical principles of non-malfeasance and patient autonomy (freedom-to-move-at-will). Thus, healthcare professionals may have to decide to physically restrain a patient with dementia to prevent the patient doing harm to him- or herself or to someone else. Given the lack of guidance on how to address ethical issues in CPG development manuals, in this thematic text analysis, the researchers assess the representation of ethical issues in CPGs on general dementia care. Thematic text analysis uses a framework for the assessment of qualitative data (information that is word-based rather than number-based) that involves pinpointing, examining, and recording patterns (themes) among the available data.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 12 national CPGs on dementia care by searching guideline databases and by contacting national psychiatric associations. They developed a framework for the assessment of the ethical content in these CPGs based on a previous systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Of the 31 DSEIs included by the researchers in their analysis, the proportion that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% (Switzerland) to 77% (USA); on average the CPGs explicitly addressed half of the DSEIs. Four DSEIs—adequate consideration of advanced directives in decision making, usage of GPS and other monitoring techniques, covert medication, and dealing with suicidal thinking—were not addressed in at least 11 of the CPGs. The inclusion of recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs ranged from 10% of DSEIs covered in the Swiss CPG to 71% covered in the US CPG. Overall, national guidelines differed substantially with respect to which ethical issues were included, whether ethical recommendations were included, whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and to what extent the ethical issues were clearly explained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that national CPGs on dementia care already address clinical ethical issues but that the extent to which the spectrum of DSEIs is considered varies widely within and between CPGs. They also indicate that recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs often lack the evidence that health-care professionals use to justify their clinical decisions. The researchers suggest that this situation can and should be improved, although more research is needed to determine how ethical issues and recommendations should be addressed in dementia guidelines. A more systematic and transparent inclusion of DSEIs in CPGs for dementia (and for other conditions) would further support the concept of medical professionalism as a core element of CPGs, note the researchers, but is also important for patients and their relatives who might turn to national CPGs for information and guidance at a stressful time of life.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia contains a page on clinical practice guidelines (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The US National Guideline Clearinghouse provides information on national guidelines, including CPGs for dementia
The Guidelines International Network promotes the systematic development and application of clinical practice guidelines
The American Medical Association provides information about medical ethics; the British Medical Association provides information on all aspects of ethics and includes an essential tool kit that introduces common ethical problems and practical ways to deal with them
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about dementia, including a personal story about dealing with dementia
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about dementia and about Alzheimers disease, a specific type of dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics provides the report Dementia: ethical issues and additional information on the public consultation on ethical issues in dementia care
PMCID: PMC3742442  PMID: 23966839
4.  Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease Begins as Episodes of Brain Ischemia and Ischemically Dysregulated Alzheimer’s Disease Genes 
Molecular Neurobiology  2013;48(3):500-515.
The study of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease etiology, now more than ever, needs an infusion of new concepts. Despite ongoing interest in Alzheimer’s disease, the basis of this entity is not yet clear. At present, the best-established and accepted “culprit” in Alzheimer’s disease pathology by most scientists is the amyloid, as the main molecular factor responsible for neurodegeneration in this disease. Abnormal upregulation of amyloid production or a disturbed clearance mechanism may lead to pathological accumulation of amyloid in brain according to the “amyloid hypothesis.” We will critically review these observations and highlight inconsistencies between the predictions of the “amyloid hypothesis” and the published data. There is still controversy over the role of amyloid in the pathological process. A question arises whether amyloid is responsible for the neurodegeneration or if it accumulates because of the neurodegeneration. Recent evidence suggests that the pathophysiology and neuropathology of Alzheimer’s disease comprises more than amyloid accumulation, tau protein pathology and finally brain atrophy with dementia. Nowadays, a handful of researchers share a newly emerged view that the ischemic episodes of brain best describe the pathogenic cascade, which eventually leads to neuronal loss, especially in hippocampus, with amyloid accumulation, tau protein pathology and irreversible dementia of Alzheimer type. The most persuasive evidences come from investigations of ischemically damaged brains of patients and from experimental ischemic brain studies that mimic Alzheimer-type dementia. This review attempts to depict what we know and do not know about the triggering factor of the Alzheimer’s disease, focusing on the possibility that the initial pathological trigger involves ischemic episodes and ischemia-induced gene dysregulation. The resulting brain ischemia dysregulates additionally expression of amyloid precursor protein and amyloid-processing enzyme genes that, in addition, ultimately compromise brain functions, leading over time to the complex alterations that characterize advanced sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. The identification of the genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease induced by ischemia will enable to further define the events leading to sporadic Alzheimer’s disease-related abnormalities. Additionally, knowledge gained from the above investigations should facilitate the elaboration of the effective treatment and/or prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3825141  PMID: 23519520
Brain ischemia; Blood–brain barrier; Neuronal death; Dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; Genes; Amyloid precursor protein; Presenilins; Apolipoproteins; Secretases
5.  Case-control study of presenilin-1 intronic polymorphism in sporadic early and late onset Alzheimer's disease 
OBJECTIVE—Presenilin-1 is a major causative gene for early onset familial Alzheimer's disease, and the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele is a major genetic risk factor known to influence late onset and sporadic early onset Alzheimer's disease. The presenilin-1 1/1 genotype has recently been reported to be associated with sporadic Alzheimer's disease. The purpose of this study is to determine whether Alzheimer's disease is associated with presenilin-1 gene polymorphism and the apolipoprotein E genotype in an extended case-control study.
METHODS—An examination was conducted on 217 patients with Alzheimer's disease, along with an equal number of age and sex matched controls derived from the same community in a Japanese population, by using a χ2 test for homogeneity and a logistic regression analysis. A meta-analysis of data from the literature on allele frequencies in Alzheimer's disease and control populations was used for comparison with the Japanese allele frequencies obtained in this study.
RESULTS—The presenilin-1 allele-1 frequencies were similar in patients with early onset Alzheimer's disease (0.61) and younger controls (0.61), and in those with late onset Alzheimer's disease (0.63) and elderly controls (0.63). We found no evidence for a possible association between the presenilin-1 polymorphism and the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele. However, the meta-analysis showed that the association between the presenilin-1 1/1 genotype and Alzheimer's disease was significant (Peto odds ratio=1.16, 95% confidence interval=1.04-1.31).
CONCLUSIONS—These results suggest a subtle but positive association of presenilin-1 gene polymorphism with Alzheimer's disease, although Japanese data in this study which failed to support such a relation would indicate an ethnic variation.

PMCID: PMC1736406  PMID: 10329743
6.  Genetic Predisposition to Increased Blood Cholesterol and Triglyceride Lipid Levels and Risk of Alzheimer Disease: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001713.
In this study, Proitsi and colleagues use a Mendelian randomization approach to dissect the causal nature of the association between circulating lipid levels and late onset Alzheimer's Disease (LOAD) and find that genetic predisposition to increased plasma cholesterol and triglyceride lipid levels is not associated with elevated LOAD risk.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Although altered lipid metabolism has been extensively implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer disease (AD) through cell biological, epidemiological, and genetic studies, the molecular mechanisms linking cholesterol and AD pathology are still not well understood and contradictory results have been reported. We have used a Mendelian randomization approach to dissect the causal nature of the association between circulating lipid levels and late onset AD (LOAD) and test the hypothesis that genetically raised lipid levels increase the risk of LOAD.
Methods and Findings
We included 3,914 patients with LOAD, 1,675 older individuals without LOAD, and 4,989 individuals from the general population from six genome wide studies drawn from a white population (total n = 10,578). We constructed weighted genotype risk scores (GRSs) for four blood lipid phenotypes (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol [HDL-c], low-density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDL-c], triglycerides, and total cholesterol) using well-established SNPs in 157 loci for blood lipids reported by Willer and colleagues (2013). Both full GRSs using all SNPs associated with each trait at p<5×10−8 and trait specific scores using SNPs associated exclusively with each trait at p<5×10−8 were developed. We used logistic regression to investigate whether the GRSs were associated with LOAD in each study and results were combined together by meta-analysis. We found no association between any of the full GRSs and LOAD (meta-analysis results: odds ratio [OR] = 1.005, 95% CI 0.82–1.24, p = 0.962 per 1 unit increase in HDL-c; OR = 0.901, 95% CI 0.65–1.25, p = 0.530 per 1 unit increase in LDL-c; OR = 1.104, 95% CI 0.89–1.37, p = 0.362 per 1 unit increase in triglycerides; and OR = 0.954, 95% CI 0.76–1.21, p = 0.688 per 1 unit increase in total cholesterol). Results for the trait specific scores were similar; however, the trait specific scores explained much smaller phenotypic variance.
Genetic predisposition to increased blood cholesterol and triglyceride lipid levels is not associated with elevated LOAD risk. The observed epidemiological associations between abnormal lipid levels and LOAD risk could therefore be attributed to the result of biological pleiotropy or could be secondary to LOAD. Limitations of this study include the small proportion of lipid variance explained by the GRS, biases in case-control ascertainment, and the limitations implicit to Mendelian randomization studies. Future studies should focus on larger LOAD datasets with longitudinal sampled peripheral lipid measures and other markers of lipid metabolism, which have been shown to be altered in LOAD.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Currently, about 44 million people worldwide have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. Dementia mainly affects older people and, because people are living longer, experts estimate that more than 135 million people will have dementia by 2050. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease. In this type of dementia, protein clumps called plaques and neurofibrillary tangles form in the brain and cause its degeneration. The earliest sign of Alzheimer disease is usually increasing forgetfulness. As the disease progresses, affected individuals gradually lose their ability to deal with normal daily activities such as dressing. They may become anxious or aggressive or begin to wander. They may also eventually lose control of their bladder and of other physical functions. At present, there is no cure for Alzheimer disease although some of its symptoms can be managed with drugs. Most people with the disease are initially cared for at home by relatives and other unpaid carers, but many patients end their days in a care home or specialist nursing home.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several lines of evidence suggest that lipid metabolism (how the body handles cholesterol and other fats) is altered in patients whose Alzheimer disease develops after the age of 60 years (late onset Alzheimer disease, LOAD). In particular, epidemiological studies (observational investigations that examine the patterns and causes of disease in populations) have found an association between high amounts of cholesterol in the blood in midlife and the risk of LOAD. However, observational studies cannot prove that abnormal lipid metabolism (dyslipidemia) causes LOAD. People with dyslipidemia may share other characteristics that cause both dyslipidemia and LOAD (confounding) or LOAD might actually cause dyslipidemia (reverse causation). Here, the researchers use “Mendelian randomization” to examine whether lifetime changes in lipid metabolism caused by genes have a causal impact on LOAD risk. In Mendelian randomization, causality is inferred from associations between genetic variants that mimic the effect of a modifiable risk factor and the outcome of interest. Because gene variants are inherited randomly, they are not prone to confounding and are free from reverse causation. So, if dyslipidemia causes LOAD, genetic variants that affect lipid metabolism should be associated with an altered risk of LOAD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers investigated whether genetic predisposition to raised lipid levels increased the risk of LOAD in 10,578 participants (3,914 patients with LOAD, 1,675 elderly people without LOAD, and 4,989 population controls) using data collected in six genome wide studies looking for gene variants associated with Alzheimer disease. The researchers constructed a genotype risk score (GRS) for each participant using genetic risk markers for four types of blood lipids on the basis of the presence of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, a type of gene variant) in their DNA. When the researchers used statistical methods to investigate the association between the GRS and LOAD among all the study participants, they found no association between the GRS and LOAD.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the genetic predisposition to raised blood levels of four types of lipid is not causally associated with LOAD risk. The accuracy of this finding may be affected by several limitations of this study, including the small proportion of lipid variance explained by the GRS and the validity of several assumptions that underlie all Mendelian randomization studies. Moreover, because all the participants in this study were white, these findings may not apply to people of other ethnic backgrounds. Given their findings, the researchers suggest that the observed epidemiological associations between abnormal lipid levels in the blood and variation in lipid levels for reasons other than genetics, or to LOAD risk could be secondary to variation in lipid levels for reasons other than genetics, or to LOAD, a possibility that can be investigated by studying blood lipid levels and other markers of lipid metabolism over time in large groups of patients with LOAD. Importantly, however, these findings provide new information about the role of lipids in LOAD development that may eventually lead to new therapeutic and public-health interventions for Alzheimer disease.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information (including personal stories) about Alzheimer's disease
The UK not-for-profit organization Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and carers about dementia, including personal experiences of living with Alzheimer's disease
The US not-for-profit organization Alzheimer's Association also provides information for patients and carers about dementia and personal stories about dementia
Alzheimer's Disease International is the international federation of Alzheimer disease associations around the world; it provides links to individual associations, information about dementia, and links to World Alzheimer Reports
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about Alzheimer's disease (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has a page on Mendelian randomization (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC4165594  PMID: 25226301
7.  Age, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Ageing 
Brain  2010;133(8):2225-2231.
Recent studies suggest that dementia in the most elderly (90 years of age and above) is only modestly related to Alzheimer’s disease pathology. This raises the possibility that other, as yet unknown, disease processes may underlie dementia in this rapidly growing demographic group, and that efforts designed to combat Alzheimer’s disease may not be appropriate for treating dementia in very elderly subjects. To study this question more closely, we examined the relationship between neocortical Alzheimer-type brain pathology and dementia in consecutive autopsies from 209 participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a prospective longitudinal cohort study of the effect of ageing on cognition. Almost half of the cohort was older than 90 years of age at death. We found that several measures of neocortical Alzheimer’s pathology, including the Consortium to Establish a Registry of Alzheimer’s Disease neuritic plaque score and the Braak neurofibrillary tangle score, remained significant predictors of dementia, independent of age. In participants older than 90 years of age, intracranial atherosclerosis emerged as an important predictor of dementia in subjects with low Alzheimer’s pathology scores, but did not mitigate the importance or population attributable risk of high Alzheimer’s pathology scores on the odds of dementia. There was evidence that the threshold score for neurofibrillary pathology to cause dementia increased in the oldest subjects, but this was offset by an overall increase in neurofibrillary pathology in this age group. We conclude that neocortical Alzheimer’s disease pathology remains significantly correlated with dementia, independent of age. In the most elderly, atherosclerosis also emerged as a cause of dementia in subjects with low Alzheimer’s pathology scores. We found no evidence for a significant number of elderly subjects having dementia without an apparent cause.
PMCID: PMC3139933  PMID: 20647264
Alzheimer’s disease; pathology; ageing; natural history; neurodegenerative mechanisms
8.  A meta-analysis of prospective studies on the role of physical activity and the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults 
BMC Geriatrics  2015;15:9.
The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is increasing as the global population ages. Given the limited success of pharmaceuticals in preventing this disease, a greater emphasis on non-pharmaceutical approaches is needed. The aim of this study was to quantify the association between Alzheimer’s disease and physical activity in older adults over the age of 65 years.
A meta-analytic approach was used to determine if physical activity reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in individuals 65 years or older. Some evidence indicates that physical activity may improve cognitive function in older adults, while other evidence is inconclusive. The purpose of this study was to examine if prevention of Alzheimer’s disease is possible if started at a later age. The precise brain changes that occur with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease are not fully known, and therefore may still be influenced by preventative measures even in advancing age. Determining if physical activity can inhibit the onset of the disease at any age may motivate individuals to adopt an “it’s never too late” mentality on preventing the onset of this debilitating disease. Longitudinal studies of participants who were 65 years or older at baseline were included. A total of 20,326 participants from nine studies were included in this analysis.
The fixed effects risk ratio is estimated as 0.61 (95% CI 0.52-0.73) corresponding to a statistically significant overall reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s disease in physically active older adults compared to their non-active counterparts.
Physical activity was associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease in adults over the age of 65 years. Given the limited treatment options, greater emphasis should be paid to primary prevention through physical activity amongst individuals at high-risk of Alzheimer’s disease, such as those with strong genetic and family history.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12877-015-0007-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4333880
Physical activity; Alzheimer’s disease; Older adults; Systematic review
9.  Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Events in the Randomized, Controlled Alzheimer's Disease Anti-Inflammatory Prevention Trial (ADAPT) 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2006;1(7):e33.
The Alzheimer's Disease Anti-inflammatory Prevention Trial (ADAPT) was designed to evaluate the conventional NSAID naproxen sodium and the selective COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib for primary prevention of Alzheimer's dementia (AD). On 17 December 2004, after the Adenoma Prevention with Celecoxib (APC) trial reported increased cardiovascular risks with celecoxib, the ADAPT Steering Committee suspended treatment and enrollment. This paper reports on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events in ADAPT.
ADAPT is a randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel chemoprevention trial with 1–46 mo of follow-up.
The trial was conducted at six field sites in the United States: Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; Rochester, New York; Seattle, Washington; Sun City, Arizona; and Tampa, Florida.
The 2,528 participants were aged 70 y and older with a family history of AD.
Study treatments were celecoxib (200 mg b.i.d.), naproxen sodium (220 mg b.i.d.), and placebo.
Outcome measures:
Outcome measures were deaths, along with nonfatal myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, congestive heart failure (CHF), transient ischemic attack (TIA), and antihypertensive treatment recorded from structured interviews at scheduled intervals. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to analyze these events individually and in several composites.
Counts (with 3-y incidence) of participants who experienced cardiovascular or cerebrovascular death, MI, stroke, CHF, or TIA in the celecoxib-, naproxen-, and placebo-treated groups were 28/717 (5.54%), 40/713 (8.25%), and 37/1070 (5.68%), respectively. This yielded a hazard ratio (95% confidence interval [CI]) for celecoxib of 1.10 (0.67–1.79) and for naproxen of 1.63 (1.04–2.55). Antihypertensive treatment was initiated in 160/440 (47.43%), 147/427 (45.00%), and 164/644 (34.08%). This yielded hazard ratios (CIs) of 1.56 for celecoxib (1.26–1.94) and 1.40 for naproxen (1.12–1.75).
For celecoxib, ADAPT data do not show the same level of risk as those of the APC trial. The data for naproxen, although not definitive, are suggestive of increased cardiovascular and cerebrovascular risk.
Editorial Commentary
Background: Evidence from observational studies suggests that people taking certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are at lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. However, in order to reliably find out whether NSAIDs reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, it is important to perform a properly designed randomized trial. Such a trial, ADAPT, was sponsored by the United States National Institute on Aging, and the study started recruitment in 2001. The trial involved three treatment arms: naproxen (one type of NSAID), celecoxib (another type of NSAID, but one that specifically inhibits an enzyme called COX-2), and placebo, acting as a control. It was planned that 2,625 participants would be recruited and that the primary outcome of interest was incidence of Alzheimer's disease in the three treatment arms; the trial would run for 7 y. However, this trial was terminated early, a decision based in part on information from other studies that demonstrated an increased risk of certain harms, such as heart attacks and strokes, in people taking celecoxib and other types of COX-2 inhibitors. Therefore meaningful data were not available at the time on the study's primary outcome (prevention of Alzheimer's disease). However, data about the chance of these harms are available from the ADAPT results, and these results are presented here.
What this trial shows: The investigators compared frequency of particular types of harm in the treatment arms: heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure (CHF), and transient ischemic attack (TIA). For each individual type of event, some were more likely in people treated with celecoxib compared with placebo, but others were not. When considering people taking naproxen, all four types of adverse events were more likely to occur in the treatment group as compared to placebo. The investigators then combined data from all four types of harm together, and here they found that the overall risk in people taking celecoxib was higher than for people taking placebo, but that this was not statistically significant, so it could have been due to chance alone. When considering naproxen as compared with placebo, the researchers saw an approximately 60% increase in risk for all four harms combined, and this result was statistically significant. The death rate in people taking either celecoxib or naproxen was higher than for those taking placebo, but this was not statistically significant, and therefore could have been due to chance.
Strengths and limitations: Strengths of this study include the randomization procedures, which used a distributed computer system to assign patients to treatment arms (minimizing the chance of bias), blinding of patients to their treatment assignment, and blinding of the committee reviewing deaths and safety reports to treatment assignment. One limitation is that although the trial was large and appropriately powered for the main outcome (prevention of Alzheimer's disease), the number of safety events reported here were small and the trial was not primarily designed to examine safety. Further, participants eligible to join this trial were required to have a family history of Alzheimer's disease, so it is possible that their risk factors are slightly different from the general population.
Contribution to the evidence: The cardiovascular safety of NSAID's, including COX-2 inhibitors, is an intensely debated topic. Very few published data exist on the long-term safety of celecoxib as compared with placebo, although there are a number of as-yet-unpublished studies. These data on harms provided by ADAPT provide important results that should be incorporated into future meta-analyses. Such meta-analyses will give a more rigorous and reliable assessment of the safety of the drugs studied here.
PMCID: PMC1851724  PMID: 17111043
The Journal of biological chemistry  2005;280(36):31746-31753.
Synaptic dysfunction is one of the earliest events in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic defects in AD are largely unknown. We report here that Aβ, the main component of senile plaques, induced a significant decrease in dynamin 1, a protein that is essential for synaptic vesicle recycling, and hence, for memory formation and information processing. The Aβ-induced dynamin 1 decrease occurred in the absence of overt synaptic loss and was also observed in the Tg2576 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, our results provided evidence that the Aβ-induced decrease in dynamin 1 was likely the result of a calpain-mediated cleavage of dynamin 1 protein and possibly the down-regulation of dynamin 1 gene expression. These data suggest a mechanism to explain the early cognitive loss without a major decline in synapse number observed in Alzheimer’s disease, and propose a novel therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s disease intervention.
PMCID: PMC1364535  PMID: 16002400
11.  Paradigm Shift in Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease: Zinc Therapy Now a Conscientious Choice for Care of Individual Patients 
Breakthrough in treatment of Alzheimer's disease with a shift from irrational dangerous chelation therapy to rational safe evidence based oral zinc therapy. Evidence based medicine: After synthesizing the best available clinical evidence I conclude that oral zinc therapy is a conscientious choice for treatment of free copper toxicosis in individual patients with Alzheimer's disease. Hypothesis 1: Age related free copper toxicosis is a causal factor in pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. There are 2 neurodegenerative diseases with abnormalities in copper metabolism: (a) the juvenile form with degeneration in the basal ganglia (Wilson's disease) and (b) the age related form with cortical neurodegeneration (Alzheimer's disease). Initially the hypothesis has been that neurodegeneration was caused by accumulation of copper in the brain but later experiences with treatment of Wilson's disease led to the conviction that free plasma copper is the toxic form of copper: it catalyzes amyloid formation thereby generating oxidative stress, free radicals and degeneration of cortical neurons. Hypothesis 2: Oral zinc therapy is an effective and safe treatment of free copper toxicosis in Alzheimer's disease. Proposed dosage: 50 mg elementary zinc/day. Warning: Chelation therapy is irrational and dangerous in treatment of copper toxicosis in Alzheimer's disease.
PMCID: PMC3178199  PMID: 21949909
12.  Alzheimer’s disease phenotypes and genotypes associated with mutations in presenilin 2 
Brain  2010;133(4):1143-1154.
Mutations in presenilin 2 are rare causes of early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. Eighteen presenilin 2 mutations have been reported, although not all have been confirmed pathogenic. Much remains to be learned about the range of phenotypes associated with these mutations. We have analysed our unique collection of 146 affected cases in 11 Volga German families, 101 who are likely to have the same N141I mutation in presenilin 2 (54 genotyped confirmed). We have also assessed the detailed neuropathologic findings in 18 autopsies from these families and reviewed the world’s literature on other presenilin 2 mutations; presenting a novel mutation that is predicted to lead to a premature truncation codon. Seven presenilin 2 mutations reported in the literature have strong evidence for pathogenicity whereas others may be benign polymorphisms. One hundred and one affected persons, with sufficient historical information from the Volga German pedigrees (N141I mutation), had a mean onset age of 53.7 years ± 7.8 (range 39–75) and mean age at death of 64.2 years ± 9.8 (range 43–88). These figures overlap with and generally fall between the results from the subjects in our centre who have late onset familial Alzheimer’s disease or mutations in presenilin 1. Seizures were noted in 20 (30%) of 64 subjects with detailed medical records. Two mutation carriers lived beyond age 80 without developing dementia, representing uncommon examples of decreased penetrance. Two persons had severe amyloid angiopathy and haemorrhagic stroke. Eighteen cases had detailed histopathology available and analysed at our institution. Braak stage was five or six, amyloid angiopathy and neuritic plaques were common and more than 75% had Lewy bodies in the amygdala. TAR DNA-binding protein-43 inclusions were uncommon. In addition, a 58-year-old female with a 2 year course of cognitive decline and no family history of dementia has abnormal fludeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography imaging and a novel 2 base pair deletion in presenilin 2 at nucleotide 342/343, predicted to produce a frame-shift and premature termination. We conclude that mutations in presenilin 2 are rare with only seven being well documented in the literature. The best studied N141I mutation produces an Alzheimer’s disease phenotype with a wide range of onset ages overlapping both early and late onset Alzheimer’s disease, often associated with seizures, high penetrance and typical Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology. A novel premature termination mutation supports loss of function or haploinsufficiency as pathogenic mechanisms in presenilin 2 associated Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC2850581  PMID: 20375137
Alzheimer’s disease; presenilin 2; human genetics; dementia; amyloid; Volga German
13.  Evidence that the presynaptic vesicle protein CSPalpha is a key player in synaptic degeneration and protection in Alzheimer’s disease 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:6.
In Alzheimer’s disease synapse loss precedes neuronal loss and correlates best with impaired memory formation. However, the mechanisms underlying synaptic degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease are not well known. Further, it is unclear why synapses in AD cerebellum are protected from degeneration. Our recent work on the cyclin-dependent kinase 5 activator p25 suggested that expression of the multifunctional presynaptic molecule cysteine string protein alpha (CSPalpha) may be affected in Alzheimer’s disease.
Using western blots and immunohistochemistry, we found that CSPalpha expression is reduced in hippocampus and superior temporal gyrus in Alzheimer’s disease. Reduced CSPalpha expression occurred before synaptophysin levels drop, suggesting that it contributes to the initial stages of synaptic degeneration. Surprisingly, we also found that CSPalpha expression is upregulated in cerebellum in Alzheimer’s disease. This CSPalpha upregulation reached the same level as in young, healthy cerebellum. We tested the idea whether CSPalpha upregulation might be neuroprotective, using htau mice, a model of tauopathy that expresses the entire wild-type human tau gene in the absence of mouse tau. In htau mice CSPalpha expression was found to be elevated at times when neuronal loss did not occur.
Our findings provide evidence that the presynaptic vesicle protein CSPalpha is a key player in synaptic degeneration and protection in Alzheimer’s disease. In the forebrain CSPalpha expression is reduced early in the disease and this may contribute to the initial stages of synaptic degeneration. In the cerebellum CSPalpha expression is upregulated to young, healthy levels and this may protect cerebellar synapses and neurons to survive. Accordingly, CSPalpha upregulation also occurs in a mouse model of tauopathy only at time when neuronal loss does not take place.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0096-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4314762  PMID: 25631211
Alzheimer’s disease; Cerebellum; Cysteine string protein; Hippocampus; Synapses; Neuroprotection
14.  Psychosocial Factors That Shape Patient and Carer Experiences of Dementia Diagnosis and Treatment: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(10):e1001331.
A systematic review of qualitative studies conducted by Frances Bunn and colleagues identifies and describes the experiences of patients and caregivers on receiving and adapting to a diagnosis of dementia.
Early diagnosis and intervention for people with dementia is increasingly considered a priority, but practitioners are concerned with the effects of earlier diagnosis and interventions on patients and caregivers. This systematic review evaluates the qualitative evidence about how people accommodate and adapt to the diagnosis of dementia and its immediate consequences, to guide practice.
Methods and Findings
We systematically reviewed qualitative studies exploring experiences of community-dwelling individuals with dementia, and their carers, around diagnosis and the transition to becoming a person with dementia. We searched PubMed, PsychINFO, Embase, CINAHL, and the British Nursing Index (all searched in May 2010 with no date restrictions; PubMed search updated in February 2012), checked reference lists, and undertook citation searches in PubMed and Google Scholar (ongoing to September 2011). We used thematic synthesis to identify key themes, commonalities, barriers to earlier diagnosis, and support identified as helpful. We identified 126 papers reporting 102 studies including a total of 3,095 participants. Three overarching themes emerged from our analysis: (1) pathways through diagnosis, including its impact on identity, roles, and relationships; (2) resolving conflicts to accommodate a diagnosis, including the acceptability of support, focusing on the present or the future, and the use or avoidance of knowledge; and (3) strategies and support to minimise the impact of dementia. Consistent barriers to diagnosis include stigma, normalisation of symptoms, and lack of knowledge. Studies report a lack of specialist support particularly post-diagnosis.
There is an extensive body of qualitative literature on the experiences of community-dwelling individuals with dementia on receiving and adapting to a diagnosis of dementia. We present a thematic analysis that could be useful to professionals working with people with dementia. We suggest that research emphasis should shift towards the development and evaluation of interventions, particularly those providing support after diagnosis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Dementia is a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer disease is the most common type of dementia. People with dementia usually have problems with two or more cognitive functions—thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment. Dementia is rare before the age of 65, but about a quarter of people over 85 have dementia. Because more people live longer these days, the number of patients with dementia is increasing. It is estimated that today between 40 and 50 million people live with dementia worldwide. By 2050, this number is expected to triple.
One way to study what dementia means to patients and their carers (most often spouses or other family members) is through qualitative research. Qualitative research aims to develop an in-depth understanding of individuals' experiences and behavior, as well as the reasons for their feelings and actions. In qualitative studies, researchers interview patients, their families, and doctors. When the studies are published, they usually contain direct quotations from interviews as well as summaries by the scientists who designed the interviews and analyzed the responses.
Why Was This Study Done?
This study was done to better understand the experiences and attitudes of patients and their carers surrounding dementia diagnosis. It focused on patients who lived and were cared for within the community (as opposed to people living in senior care facilities or other institutions). Most cases of dementia are progressive, meaning symptoms get worse over time. Diagnosis often happens at an advanced stage of the disease, and some patients never receive a formal diagnosis. This could have many possible reasons, including unawareness or denial of symptoms by patients and people close to them. The study was also trying to understand barriers to early diagnosis and what type of support is useful for newly diagnosed patients and carers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic search for published qualitative research studies that reported on the experience, beliefs, feelings, and attitudes surrounding dementia diagnosis. They identified and reviewed 102 such studies. Among the quotations and summaries of the individual studies, they looked for prominent and recurring themes. They also compared and contrasted the respective experiences of patients and carers.
Overall, they found that the complexity and variety of responses to a diagnosis of dementia means that making the diagnosis and conveying it to patients and carers is challenging. Negative connotations associated with dementia, inconsistent symptoms, and not knowing enough about the signs and symptoms were commonly reported barriers to early dementia diagnosis. It was often the carer who initiated the search for help from a doctor, and among patients, willingness and readiness to receive a diagnosis varied. Being told one had dementia had a big impact on a patient's identity and often caused feelings of loss, anger, fear, and frustration. Spouses had to adjust to increasingly unequal relationships and the transition to a role as carer. The strain associated with this often caused health problems in the carers as well. On the other hand, studies examining the experience of couples often reported that they found ways to continue working together as a team.
Adjusting to a dementia diagnosis is a complex process. Initially, most patients and carers experienced conflicts, for example, between autonomy and safety, between recognizing the need for help but reluctance to accept it, or between living in the present and dealing with anxiety about and preparing for the future. As these were resolved and as the disease progressed, the attitudes of patients and carers towards dementia often became more balanced and accepting. Many patients and their families adopted strategies to cope with the impact of dementia on their lives in order to manage the disease and maintain some sort of normal life. These included practical strategies involving reminders, social strategies such as relying on family support, and emotional strategies such as using humor. At some point many patients and carers reported that they were able to adopt positive mindsets and incorporate dementia in their lives.
The studies also pointed to an urgent need for support from outside the family, both right after diagnosis and subsequently. General practitioners and family physicians have important roles in helping patients and carers to get access to information, social and psychological support, and community care. The need for information was reported to be ongoing and varied, and meeting it required a variety of sources and formats. Key needs for patients and carers mentioned in the studies include information on financial aids and entitlements early on, and continued access to supportive professionals and specialists.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Qualitative studies to date on how patients and carers respond to a diagnosis of dementia provide a fairly detailed picture of their experiences. The summary provided here should help professionals to understand better the challenges patients and carers face around the time of diagnosis as well as their immediate and evolving needs. The results also suggest that future research should focus on the development and evaluation of ways to meet those needs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia has pages on dementia and qualitative research (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
Alzheimer Europe, an umbrella organization of 34 Alzheimer associations from 30 countries across Europe, has a page on the different approaches to research
The UK Department of Health has pages on dementia, including guidelines for carers of people with dementia
MedlinePlus also has information about dementia
PMCID: PMC3484131  PMID: 23118618
15.  Major decrease in the volume of the entorhinal cortex in patients with Alzheimer's disease carrying the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele 
OBJECTIVE—Recent evidence indicates that the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) ε4 allele is a risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease. It has also been proposed that it is associated with increased counts of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that in turn are neuropathological hallmarks initially appearing in the medial temporal lobe structures in Alzheimer's disease. In this study, the effect of the ApoE ε4 allele on the volume of the entorhinal cortex was evaluated in vivo.
METHODS—The volume of the entorhinal cortex was measured on MR images using a recently designed histology based protocol in 16 patients with Alzheimer's disease with ApoE ε4 (mean age 70.4 (SD 9.9)), 11 patients with Alzheimer's disease without ApoE ε4 (mean age 69.1 (SD7.1)), and in 31 healthy age and sex matched normal controls (72.2 (SD 3.9)). The patients met the NINCDS-ADRDA criteria for probable Alzheimer's disease and were in mild to moderate stages of the disease. MRI was performed with a 1.5 Tesla Magnetom and a 3D technique permitting the reconstruction of 2.0 mm thick contiguous slices perpendicular to the axis of the anterior-posterior commissure.
RESULTS—The patients with Alzheimer's disease without the ApoE ε4 allele had atrophy in the entorhinal cortex, the volume was reduced by 27 % compared with control subjects. However, the most prominent shrinkage (45%) in the entorhinal cortex was seen in patients with Alzheimer's disease with the ApoE ε4 allele (p=0.0001). The effect of ε4 on the entorhinal cortex volume was especially prominent in female patients with Alzheimer's disease compared to male patients with Alzheimer's disease (p=0.014). Additionally, patients with the ApoE ε4 allele had inferior performance in verbal and visual memory functions than those without the allele
CONCLUSIONS—Volumetric MRI measurements disclose that ApoE ε4 is associated with the degree of atrophy in the entorhinal cortex in early Alzheimer's disease, this effect being especially prominent in female patients with Alzheimer's disease. 

PMCID: PMC2170244  PMID: 9728943
16.  Metal protein attenuating compounds for the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia 
Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) may be caused by the formation of extracellular senile plaques comprised of beta-amyloid (Aß). In vitro and mouse model studies have demonstrated that metal protein attenuating compounds (MPACs) promote the solubilisation and clearance of Aß.
To evaluate the efficacy of metal protein attenuating compounds (MPACs) for the treatment of cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s dementia.
Search methods
We searched ALOIS, the Cochrane Dementia and Cognitive Improvement Group Specialized Register, on 29 July 2010 using the terms: Clioquinol OR PBT1 OR PBT2 OR “metal protein” OR MPACS OR MPAC.
Selection criteria
Randomised double-blind trials in which treatment with an MPAC was administered to participants with Alzheimer’s dementia in a parallel group comparison with placebo were included.
Data collection and analysis
Three review authors (RM, LJ, ELS) independently assessed the quality of trials according to the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.
The primary outcome measure of interest was cognitive function (as measured by psychometric tests). The secondary outcome measures of interest were in the following areas: quality of life, functional performance, effect on carer, biomarkers, safety and adverse effects, and death.
Main results
Two MPAC trials were identified. One trial compared clioquinol (PBT1) with placebo in 36 patients and 32 had sufficient data for per protocol analysis. There was no statistically significant difference in cognition (as measured on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale - Cognition (ADAS-Cog)) between the active treatment and placebo groups at 36 weeks. The difference in mean change from baseline ADAS-Cog score in the clioquinol arm compared with the placebo arm at weeks 24 and 36 was a difference of 7.37 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.51 to 13.24) and 6.36 (95% CI −0.50 to 13.23), respectively. There was no significant impact on non-cognitive symptoms or clinical global impression. One participant in the active treatment group developed neurological symptoms (impaired visual acuity and colour vision) which resolved on cessation of treatment and were possibly attributable to the drug.
In the second trial a successor compound, PBT2, was compared with placebo in 78 participants with mild Alzheimer’s dementia; all were included in the intention-to-treat analysis. There was no significant difference in the Neuropsychological Test Battery (NTB) composite, memory or executive scores between placebo and PBT2 in the least squares mean change from baseline at week 12. However, two executive function component tests of the NTB showed significant improvement over placebo in the PBT2 250 mg group from baseline to week 12: category fluency test (2.8 words, 95% CI 0.1 to 5.4; P = 0.041) and trail making part B (−48.0 s, 95% CI −83.0 to −13.0; P = 0.009). In the executive factor Z score, the difference in least squares mean change from baseline at week 12 for PBT2 250 mg compared with placebo was 0·27 (0·01 to 0·53; p=0·042). There was no significant effect on cognition on Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) or ADAS-Cog scales. PBT2 had a favourable safety profile.
Authors’ conclusions
There is an absence of evidence as to whether clioquinol (PBT1) has any positive clinical benefit for patients with AD, or whether the drug is safe. We have some concerns about the quality of the study methodology; there was an imbalance in treatment and control groups after randomisation (participants in the active treatment group had a higher mean pre-morbid IQ) and the secondary analyses of results stratified by baseline dementia severity. The planned phase III trial of PBT1 has been abandoned and this compound has been withdrawn from development. The second trial of PBT2 was more rigorously conducted and showed that after 12 weeks this compound appeared to be safe and well tolerated in people with mild Alzheimer’s dementia. Larger trials are now required to demonstrate cognitive efficacy.
PMCID: PMC4165331  PMID: 22592705
Alzheimer Disease [*drug therapy]; Chelating Agents [adverse effects; *therapeutic use]; Clioquinol [adverse effects; *analogs & derivatives; *therapeutic use]; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Aged; Humans
17.  Cerebrospinal fluid tau protein as a biochemical marker for Alzheimer's disease: a community based follow up study 
OBJECTIVES—Biochemical markers for Alzheimer's disease would be of great value, especially to help in diagnosis early in the course of the disease. A pronounced increase in CSF tau protein (CSF-tau) is found in most patients with Alzheimer's disease. However, the specificity has to be further studied, as an increase in CSF-tau has also been found in other dementias, especially in vascular dementia. As most previous CSF studies have been based on selected inpatients, it was considered of special interest to examine the diagnostic potential of CSF-tau in a community population based sample of consecutive patients with dementia. Such patient material has been examined at the Piteå River Valley Hospital in Northern Sweden since 1986, and includes all those with memory disturbances in the community. The aim was also to study if an increase in CSF-tau is found early in the disease process, and whether CSF-tau changes during the progression of disease.
METHODS—Participants: Community population based sample of 75 demented patients (43 with Alzheimer's disease, 21 with vascular dementia, and 11 with mixed Alzheimer's disease/vascular dementia), 18 healthy subjects, and 18 neurological controls. A follow up investigation (including analysis of a new CSF sample) was performed in all patients after about one year.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES—Concentrations of total (both normal tau and PHF-tau) tau in CSF, clinical measures (duration and severity of dementia), and apoE polymorphism.
RESULTS—CSF-tau was markedly increased in Alzheimer's disease, 41/43 (95%) patients had values above the cut off level (mean+2 SD) in controls (306 pg/ml). High CSF-tau concentrations were also found in most patients with vascular dementia, preferentially in patients with vascular dementia without progressive leukoaraiosis on CT, whereas patients with vascular dementia with progressive leukoaraiosis had normal CSF-tau. Concentrations of CSF-tau were stable at one year follow up in both patients with Alzheimer's disease and patients with vascular dementia, and there was no correlation between CSF-tau and either duration or severity of dementia.
CONCLUSIONS—The findings confirm the high sensitivity of CSF-tau for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, but high CSF-tau was also found in vascular dementia, resulting in a lower specificity. However, high CSF-tau is preferentially found in patients with vascular dementia without progressive leukoaraiosis, which may constitute a group with concomitant Alzheimer's disease pathology. High CSF-tau may be present during the whole course of the disease in Alzheimer's disease. Possibly, therefore, the same high CSF-tau concentrations may be present before the onset of clinical dementia. Follow up studies on such patients will tell whether analysis of CSF-tau is useful as a biochemical marker for early Alzheimer's disease.

PMCID: PMC2170016  PMID: 9527138
18.  Effective screen for amyloid β aggregation inhibitor using amyloid β-conjugated gold nanoparticles 
The abnormal aggregation of amyloid β (Aβ) and its subsequent intra- and extracellular accumulation constitute the disease-causing cascade of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The detection of Aβ aggregates and senile plaque formation, however, is nearly impossible during early pathogenesis, and the absence of a convenient screen to validate the activity of Aβ aggregation regulators impedes the development of promising drug targets and diagnostic biomarkers for AD. Here, we conjugated amyloid β42 (Aβ42) peptide to gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) to visualize Aβ42 aggregation via Aβ42 aggregation-induced AuNP precipitation. AuNP–Aβ42 precipitate was quantified by optical density measurements of supernatants and thioflavin T binding assay. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis also showed reduced interparticle distance of AuNPs and confirmed the Aβ42 aggregation-induced AuNP precipitation. Transthyretin, a widely known Aβ aggregation inhibitor, limited AuNP–Aβ42 precipitation by preventing Aβ42 aggregation. Finally, according to TEM analysis, Aβ42-conjugated AuNPs treated with blood-driven serum revealed the differentiated aggregation patterns between normal and AD. These findings may open a scientific breakthrough in finding a possible diagnostic and prognostic tool for neurodegenerative diseases involving abnormal protein aggregation as their key pathogenesis processes.
PMCID: PMC3025587  PMID: 21289976
transthyretin; Alzheimer’s disease; diagnosis; amyloid β aggregation; gold nanoparticle
19.  Genetics, transcriptomics and proteomics of Alzheimer’s disease 
To provide an updated overview of the methods used in genetic, transcriptomic and proteomic studies in Alzheimer’s disease and to demonstrate the importance of those methods for the improvement of the current diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities.
Data sources
Medline-based search of 234 peer-reviewed articles published between 1975 and 2006.
Data synthesis
Alzheimer’s disease is a genetically heterogeneous disorder. Rare mutations in the APP, presenilin 1, and presenilin 2 genes have shown the importance of the amyloid metabolism for its development. In addition, converging evidence from population-based genetic studies, gene expression studies and protein profile studies in the brain and in the cerebrospinal fluid suggest the existence of several pathogenetic pathways such as amyloid precursor protein processing, β-amyloid degradation, tau phosphorylation, proteolysis, protein misfolding, neuroinflammation, oxidative stress and lipid metabolism.
The development of high-throughput genotyping methods and of elaborated statistical analyses will contribute to the identification of genetic risk profiles related to the development and course of this devastating disease. The integration of knowledge derived from genetic, transcriptomic and proteomic studies will greatly advance our understanding of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, it will improve our capability of establishing an early diagnosis, it will help defining disease subgroups and it will ultimately help to pave the road towards improved and tailored treatments.
PMCID: PMC2259384  PMID: 16669732
20.  Sensitive pupil response of early-onset alzheimer’s patients to a dilute mixture of cholinergic antagonist and α-Adrenergic stimulant 
To investigate possible differences in pupil dilation and light reflex in Alzheimer’s disease patients that can be attributed to the age of onset of the disease, a statistical comparison was made of pupil dilation and light reflex among early- and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, and patients with vascular dementia, and normal controls. The subjects included 53 probable Alzheimer’s disease outpatients, including both early-onset type (AD: n=21) and late-onset type (SD: n=32). They were compared with normal controls (n=15), Down syndrome patients (DS: n=6), and patients with vascular dementia (VD: n=9). All subjects and controls were dark-eyed Japanese. Pupil dilation and light reflex were tested in 21 AD and 32 SD patients, and were compared with those in the control subjects; 6 DS and 9 VD patients. The measured maximum increase in pupil diameter after instilling a mixture of anticholinergic and α -adrenergic stimulating drugs (Midrin-P®), in one eye was significantly greater in AD and DS than in the controls. However, there was no difference among SD, VD, and controls, suggesting a stronger pupil response to these drugs in AD than in SD. Pupil movement in response to light became significantly smaller and faster after instillation of the drugs in Alzheimer’s disease patients. The above findings may be useful for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC2723423  PMID: 21432171
Alzheimer’s disease; Down syndrome; pupil; tropicamide; light reflex
21.  Disruption of odour quality coding in piriform cortex mediates olfactory deficits in Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2010;133(9):2714-2726.
Patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease exhibit perceptual deficits in odour identification, often before the appearance of overt memory loss. This impairment coincides with the initial accumulation of pathological lesions in limbic olfactory brain regions. Although these data imply that odour stimuli may be effectively used as biological probes of limbic dysfunction, the precise neural mechanisms underlying the olfactory deficits in early Alzheimer’s disease remain poorly understood. In the current study, we combined functional magnetic resonance imaging with an olfactory cross-adaptation paradigm to test the hypothesis that perceptual codes of odour quality in posterior piriform cortex are degraded in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. In elderly control subjects, sequential presentation of qualitatively similar (versus qualitatively different) odourant pairs elicited cross-adapting responses in posterior piriform cortex, in accord with the pattern observed in healthy young adults. However, this profile was significantly blunted in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, reflecting a functional disruption of odour quality coding in this olfactory brain area. These results highlight the potential of olfactory functional magnetic resonance imaging as a non-invasive bioassay of limbic functional integrity, and suggest that such an index could possibly aid in the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, as a putative lesion model of odour quality processing in the human brain, our study suggests a causal role of posterior piriform cortex in differentiating olfactory objects.
PMCID: PMC2948816  PMID: 20724290
Alzheimer’s disease; olfactory identification deficit; odour quality coding; functional magnetic resonance imaging cross-adaptation; piriform cortex
22.  Connected speech as a marker of disease progression in autopsy-proven Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(12):3727-3737.
Although an insidious history of episodic memory difficulty is a typical presenting symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, detailed neuropsychological profiling frequently demonstrates deficits in other cognitive domains, including language. Previous studies from our group have shown that language changes may be reflected in connected speech production in the earliest stages of typical Alzheimer’s disease. The aim of the present study was to identify features of connected speech that could be used to examine longitudinal profiles of impairment in Alzheimer’s disease. Samples of connected speech were obtained from 15 former participants in a longitudinal cohort study of ageing and dementia, in whom Alzheimer’s disease was diagnosed during life and confirmed at post-mortem. All patients met clinical and neuropsychological criteria for mild cognitive impairment between 6 and 18 months before converting to a status of probable Alzheimer’s disease. In a subset of these patients neuropsychological data were available, both at the point of conversion to Alzheimer’s disease, and after disease severity had progressed from the mild to moderate stage. Connected speech samples from these patients were examined at later disease stages. Spoken language samples were obtained using the Cookie Theft picture description task. Samples were analysed using measures of syntactic complexity, lexical content, speech production, fluency and semantic content. Individual case analysis revealed that subtle changes in language were evident during the prodromal stages of Alzheimer’s disease, with two-thirds of patients with mild cognitive impairment showing significant but heterogeneous changes in connected speech. However, impairments at the mild cognitive impairment stage did not necessarily entail deficits at mild or moderate stages of disease, suggesting non-language influences on some aspects of performance. Subsequent examination of these measures revealed significant linear trends over the three stages of disease in syntactic complexity, semantic and lexical content. The findings suggest, first, that there is a progressive disruption in language integrity, detectable from the prodromal stage in a subset of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and secondly that measures of semantic and lexical content and syntactic complexity best capture the global progression of linguistic impairment through the successive clinical stages of disease. The identification of disease-specific language impairment in prodromal Alzheimer’s disease could enhance clinicians’ ability to distinguish probable Alzheimer’s disease from changes attributable to ageing, while longitudinal assessment could provide a simple approach to disease monitoring in therapeutic trials.
PMCID: PMC3859216  PMID: 24142144
Alzheimer’s disease; aphasia; neuropsychological tests; language; connected speech analysis
23.  Neuronal Autophagy: Self-eating or Self-cannibalism in Alzheimer’s Disease 
Neurochemical Research  2013;38(9):1769-1773.
Autophagy is a major intracellular degeneration pathway involved in the elimination and recycling of damaged organelles and long-lived proteins by lysosomes. Many of the pathological factors, which trigger neurodegenerative diseases, can perturb the autophagy activity, which is associated with misfolded protein aggregates accumulation in these disorders. Alzheimer’s disease, the first neurodegenerative disorder between dementias, is characterized by two aggregating proteins, β-amyloid peptide (plaques) and τ-protein (tangles). In Alzheimer’s disease autophagosomes dynamically form along neurites within neuronal cells and in synapses but effective clearance of these structures needs retrograde transportation towards the neuronal soma where there is a major concentration of lysosomes. Maturation of autophago-lysosomes and their retrograde trafficking are perturbed in Alzheimer’s disease, which causes a massive concentration of autophagy elements along degenerating neurites. Transportation system is disturbed along defected microtubules in Alzheimer’s disease brains. τ-protein has been found to control the stability of microtubules, however, phosphorylation of τ-protein or an increase in the total level of τ-protein can cause dysfunction of neuronal cells microtubules. Current evidence has shown that autophagy is developing in Alzheimer’s disease brains because of ineffective degradation of autophagosomes, which hold amyloid precursor protein-rich organelles and secretases important for β-amyloid peptides generation from amyloid precursor. The combination of raised autophagy induction and abnormal clearance of β-amyloid peptide-generating autophagic vacuoles creates circumstances helpful for β-amyloid peptide aggregation and accumulation in Alzheimer’s disease. However, the key role of autophagy in Alzheimer’s disease development is still under consideration today. One point of view suggests that abnormal autophagy induction causes a concentration of autophagic vacuoles rich in amyloid precursor protein, β-amyloid peptide and the elements crucial for its formation, whereas other hypothesis points to marred autophagic clearance or even decrease in autophagic effectiveness playing a role in maturation of Alzheimer’s disease. In this review we present the recent evidence linking autophagy to Alzheimer’s disease and the role of autophagic regulation in the development of full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3732752  PMID: 23737325
Alzheimer’s disease; Autophagy; Amyloid precursor protein; β-Amyloid peptide; τ-Protein; Neuronal death
24.  Preservation of the Capacity to Appoint a Proxy Decision Maker: Implications for Dementia Research 
Archives of General Psychiatry  2011;68(2):214-220.
Research involving persons with impaired decision-making capacity, such as persons with Alzheimer’s disease, remains ethically challenging, especially when the research involves significant risk. If subjects incapable of consenting to research studies were still able to appoint a research proxy, it would allow for an appointed surrogate, rather than a de facto surrogate, to represent the subject.
To assess the extent to which persons with Alzheimer’s disease retain their capacity to appoint a research proxy.
Design, Setting, and Participants
188 persons with Alzheimer’s disease were interviewed for their capacity to appoint a proxy (CAP) for research and to provide consent to two hypothetical research scenarios, a lower risk randomized clinical trial testing a new drug (drug RCT) and a higher risk randomized clinical trial testing neurosurgical cell implants using a sham control condition (neurosurgical RCT). Categorical capacity status for each subject was determined by independent videotape reviews of capacity interviews by five experienced psychiatrists.
Main Outcome Measures
Categorical capacity determinations for the capacity to appoint a research proxy, capacity to consent to a drug RCT, and capacity to consent to a neurosurgical RCT.
37.7% (40/106) of those deemed incapable of consenting to the drug RCT and 54.4% (86/157) of those deemed incapable of consenting to the neurosurgical RCT were still found capable of appointing a research proxy. Very few subjects (7/186, 3.8%) were deemed capable of consenting to the neurosurgical RCT by all five psychiatrists.
A substantial proportion of AD subjects thought incapable of consenting to lower or to higher risk studies have preserved capacity for appointing a research proxy. Since so few subjects are found to be unequivocally capable of providing independent consent to higher risk AD research, providing for an appointed surrogate even after the onset of AD, which might best be done in the very early stages of the illness, may help address key ethical challenges to AD research.
PMCID: PMC3349937  PMID: 21300949
25.  Down’s syndrome, neuroinflammation, and Alzheimer neuropathogenesis 
Down syndrome (DS) is the result of triplication of chromosome 21 (trisomy 21) and is the prevailing cause of mental retardation. In addition to the mental deficiencies and physical anomalies noted at birth, triplication of chromosome 21 gene products results in the neuropathological and cognitive changes of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Mapping of the gene that encodes the precursor protein (APP) of the β-amyloid (Aβ) present in the Aβ plaques in both AD and DS to chromosome 21 was strong evidence that this chromosome 21 gene product was a principal neuropathogenic culprit in AD as well as DS. The discovery of neuroinflammatory changes, including dramatic proliferation of activated glia overexpressing a chromosome 2 gene product - the pluripotent immune cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) - and a chromosome 21 gene product - S100B - in the brains of fetuses, neonates, and children with DS opened the possibility that early events in Alzheimer pathogenesis were driven by cytokines. The specific chromosome 21 gene products and the complexity of the mechanisms they engender that give rise to the neuroinflammatory responses noted in fetal development of the DS brain and their potential as accelerators of Alzheimer neuropathogenesis in DS are topics of this review, particularly as they relate to development and propagation of neuroinflammation, the consequences of which are recognized clinically and neuropathologically as Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3750399  PMID: 23866266

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