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1.  Interventions for Heart Disease and Their Effects on Alzheimer’s disease 
Neurological research  2006;28(6):630-636.
Objectives
To review the contributions of cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia.
Methods
Review of the literature
Results
Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia both share significant risk attributable to cardiovascular risk factors. Hypertension and hypercholesterolemia at midlife are significant risk factors for both subsequent dementia. Diabetes and obesity are also risk factors for dementia. Stressful medical procedures, such as coronary artery bypass and graft operations also appear to contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Apolipoprotein E is the major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Apolipoprotein E does not appear to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease by increasing serum cholesterol, but it might contribute to the disease through a mechanism involving both Aβ and an increase in neuronal vulnerability to stress.
Discussion
The strong association of cardiovascular risk factors with Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia suggest that these diseases share some biological pathways in common. The contribution of cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia suggest that cardiovascular therapies might prove useful in treating or preventing dementia. Anti-hypertensive medications appear to be beneficial in preventing vascular dementia. Statins might be beneficial in preventing the progression of dementia in subjects with Alzheimer’s disease.
doi:10.1179/016164106X130515
PMCID: PMC3913064  PMID: 16945215
beta-amyloid; cholesterol; diabetes; hypertension; statins
2.  In vivo radioligand binding to translocator protein correlates with severity of Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(7):2228-2238.
Neuroinflammation is a pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, but its role in cognitive impairment and its course of development during the disease are largely unknown. To address these unknowns, we used positron emission tomography with 11C-PBR28 to measure translocator protein 18 kDa (TSPO), a putative biomarker for inflammation. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease, patients with mild cognitive impairment and older control subjects were also scanned with 11C-Pittsburgh Compound B to measure amyloid burden. Twenty-nine amyloid-positive patients (19 Alzheimer’s, 10 mild cognitive impairment) and 13 amyloid-negative control subjects were studied. The primary goal of this study was to determine whether TSPO binding is elevated in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and the secondary goal was to determine whether TSPO binding correlates with neuropsychological measures, grey matter volume, 11C-Pittsburgh Compound B binding, or age of onset. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but not those with mild cognitive impairment, had greater 11C-PBR28 binding in cortical brain regions than controls. The largest differences were seen in the parietal and temporal cortices, with no difference in subcortical regions or cerebellum. 11C-PBR28 binding inversely correlated with performance on Folstein Mini-Mental State Examination, Clinical Dementia Rating Scale Sum of Boxes, Logical Memory Immediate (Wechsler Memory Scale Third Edition), Trail Making part B and Block Design (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale Third Edition) tasks, with the largest correlations observed in the inferior parietal lobule. 11C-PBR28 binding also inversely correlated with grey matter volume. Early-onset (<65 years) patients had greater 11C-PBR28 binding than late-onset patients, and in parietal cortex and striatum 11C-PBR28 binding correlated with lower age of onset. Partial volume corrected and uncorrected results were generally in agreement; however, the correlation between 11C-PBR28 and 11C-Pittsburgh Compound B binding was seen only after partial volume correction. The results suggest that neuroinflammation, indicated by increased 11C-PBR28 binding to TSPO, occurs after conversion of mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease and worsens with disease progression. Greater inflammation may contribute to the precipitous disease course typically seen in early-onset patients. 11C-PBR28 may be useful in longitudinal studies to mark the conversion from mild cognitive impairment or to assess response to experimental treatments of Alzheimer’s disease.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt145
PMCID: PMC3692038  PMID: 23775979
Alzheimer’s disease; mild cognitive impairment; neuroinflammation; positron emission tomography
3.  Statins in the Treatment of Chronic Heart Failure: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(8):e333.
Background
The efficacy of statin therapy in patients with established chronic heart failure (CHF) is a subject of much debate.
Methods and Findings
We conducted three systematic literature searches to assess the evidence supporting the prescription of statins in CHF. First, we investigated the participation of CHF patients in randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials designed to evaluate the efficacy of statins in reducing major cardiovascular events and mortality. Second, we assessed the association between serum cholesterol and outcome in CHF. Finally, we evaluated the ability of statin treatment to modify surrogate endpoint parameters in CHF.
Using validated search strategies, we systematically searched PubMed for our three queries. In addition, we searched the reference lists from eligible studies, used the “see related articles” feature for key publications in PubMed, consulted the Cochrane Library, and searched the ISI Web of Knowledge for papers citing key publications.
Search 1 resulted in the retrieval of 47 placebo-controlled clinical statin trials involving more than 100,000 patients. CHF patients had, however, been systematically excluded from these trials. Search 2 resulted in the retrieval of eight studies assessing the relationship between cholesterol levels and outcome in CHF patients. Lower serum cholesterol was consistently associated with increased mortality. Search 3 resulted in the retrieval of 18 studies on the efficacy of statin treatment in CHF. On the whole, these studies reported favorable outcomes for almost all surrogate endpoints.
Conclusions
Since CHF patients have been systematically excluded from randomized, controlled clinical cholesterol-lowering trials, the effect of statin therapy in these patients remains to be established. Currently, two large, randomized, placebo-controlled statin trials are under way to evaluate the efficacy of statin treatment in terms of reducing clinical endpoints in CHF patients in particular.
A systematic review found that patients with heart failure have been excluded from randomised controlled trials on the use of statins. Evidence from other studies on the effectiveness of statins for patients with heart failure is weak and conflicting.
Editors' Summary
Background.
When medical researchers test a drug—or some other treatment—for a particular medical condition, they often decide not to include in their study anyone who has, in addition to the disease they are interested in, certain other health problems. This is because including patients with two or more conditions can complicate the analysis of the results and make it hard to reach firm conclusions. However, excluding patients in this way can result in uncertainty as to whether treatments are effective for anyone who suffers from the disease in question, or just for people like those who took part in the research.
A great deal of research has been conducted with drugs known as statins, which lower cholesterol levels in the blood. (A raised level of cholesterol is known to be a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which causes heart attacks and strokes.) As a result of this research, statins have been accepted as effective and safe. They are now, in consequence, among the most commonly prescribed medicines. Heart failure, however, is not the same thing as a heart attack. It is the name given to the condition where the muscles of the heart have become weakened, most often as a result of aging, and the heart becomes gradually less efficient at pumping blood around the body. (Some people with heart failure live for many years, but 70% of those with the condition die within ten years.) It is common for people with cardiovascular disease also to have heart failure. Nevertheless, some researchers who have studied the effects of statins have made the decision not to include in their studies any patients with cardiovascular disease who, in addition, have heart failure.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers in this study were aware that patients with heart failure have often been excluded from statin trials. They felt it was important to assess the available evidence supporting the prescription of statins for such patients. Specifically, they wanted to find out the following: how often have patients with heart failure been included in statin trials, what evidence is available as to whether it is beneficial for patients with heart failure to have low cholesterol, and what evidence is there that prescribing statins helps these patients?
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They did not do any new work involving patients. Instead, they did a very thorough search for all relevant studies of good quality that had already been published and they reviewed the results. “Randomized clinical trials” (RCTs) are the most reliable type of medical research. The researchers found there had been 47 such trials (involving over 100,000 patients) on the use of statins for treating cardiovascular disease, but all these trials had excluded heart failure patients. They found eight studies (which were not RCTs) looking at cholesterol levels and heart failure. These studies found, perhaps surprisingly, that death rates were higher in those patients with heart failure who had low cholesterol. However, they also found 18 studies (again not RCTs) on the use of statins in patients with heart failure. These 18 studies seemed to suggest that statins were of benefit to the patients who received them.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The evidence for or against prescribing statins for people with heart failure is limited, conflicting, and unclear. Further research involving RTCs is necessary. (Two such trials are known to be in progress.)
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030333.
General information about statins is available from the Web site of Patient UK
The American Heart Association Web site is a good source of information about all types of heart disease, including heart attacks and heart failure
For a definition of randomized controlled trials see Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit
More detailed information about the quality of evidence from medical research may be found in the James Lind Library
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030333
PMCID: PMC1551909  PMID: 16933967
4.  Effect of Statins on Venous Thromboembolic Events: A Meta-analysis of Published and Unpublished Evidence from Randomised Controlled Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(9):e1001310.
A systematic review and meta-analysis conducted by Kazem Rahimi and colleagues re-evaluates the hypothesis, generated in previous studies, that statins may reduce the risk of venous thromboembolic events. Their meta-analysis does not support the previous findings.
Background
It has been suggested that statins substantially reduce the risk of venous thromboembolic events. We sought to test this hypothesis by performing a meta-analysis of both published and unpublished results from randomised trials of statins.
Methods and Findings
We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane CENTRAL up to March 2012 for randomised controlled trials comparing statin with no statin, or comparing high dose versus standard dose statin, with 100 or more randomised participants and at least 6 months' follow-up. Investigators were contacted for unpublished information about venous thromboembolic events during follow-up. Twenty-two trials of statin versus control (105,759 participants) and seven trials of an intensive versus a standard dose statin regimen (40,594 participants) were included. In trials of statin versus control, allocation to statin therapy did not significantly reduce the risk of venous thromboembolic events (465 [0.9%] statin versus 521 [1.0%] control, odds ratio [OR] = 0.89, 95% CI 0.78–1.01, p = 0.08) with no evidence of heterogeneity between effects on deep vein thrombosis (266 versus 311, OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.72–1.01) and effects on pulmonary embolism (205 versus 222, OR 0.92, 95% CI 0.76–1.12). Exclusion of the trial result that provided the motivation for our meta-analysis (JUPITER) had little impact on the findings for venous thromboembolic events (431 [0.9%] versus 461 [1.0%], OR = 0.93 [95% CI 0.82–1.07], p = 0.32 among the other 21 trials). There was no evidence that higher dose statin therapy reduced the risk of venous thromboembolic events compared with standard dose statin therapy (198 [1.0%] versus 202 [1.0%], OR = 0.98, 95% CI 0.80–1.20, p = 0.87). Risk of bias overall was small but a certain degree of effect underestimation due to random error cannot be ruled out.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Conclusions
The findings from this meta-analysis do not support the previous suggestion of a large protective effect of statins (or higher dose statins) on venous thromboembolic events. However, a more moderate reduction in risk up to about one-fifth cannot be ruled out.
Editors' Summary
Background
Blood normally flows smoothly throughout the human body, supplying its organs and tissues with oxygen and nutrients. But, when an injury occurs, proteins called clotting factors make the blood gel (coagulate) at the injury site. The resultant blood clot (thrombus) plugs the wound and prevents blood loss. Occasionally, however, a thrombus forms inside an uninjured blood vessel and partly or completely blocks the blood flow. A clot inside one of the veins (vessels that take blood towards the heart) deep within the body is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Symptoms of DVT (which usually occurs in the leg) include pain, swelling, and redness in the affected limb. DVT is treated with heparin and warfarin, two anticoagulant drugs that stop the blood clot growing. If left untreated, part of the clot (an embolus) can break off and travel to the lungs, where it can cause a pulmonary embolism (PE), a life-threatening condition characterized by chest pain, breathlessness, coughing, and dizziness. Little is known about how to prevent DVTs and PEs but risk factors for these venous thromboembolic events include having an inherited blood clotting disorder, oral contraceptive use, having surgery, and prolonged inactivity (on long-haul plane flights, for example).
Why Was This Study Done?
In 2009, a secondary (add-on) analysis of data from a randomized controlled trial (RCT, a study that randomly assigns individuals to receive different treatments and compares the outcomes associated with each treatment) called the JUPITER trial reported that rosuvastatin—a cholesterol-lowering drug (statin)—halved the risk of venous thromboembolic events among apparently healthy adults. The JUPITER trial was initiated to test whether statins reduce the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular diseases (conditions that involve the heart and the blood vessels) among adults with raised levels of a predictor for these diseases called C-reactive protein; statins reduce the levels of this protein as well as those of cholesterol. Because fewer than 100 of the participants in the JUPITER trial developed a DVT or PE, the reduction in the risk of a venous thromboembolic event among the participants who took rosuvastatin could have happened by chance. In this systematic review and meta-analysis of 29 RCTs of statins that collected information on many more venous thromboembolic events, the researchers test the hypothesis that statins substantially reduce the risk of such events. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; a meta-analysis is a statistical approach that combines the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 22 RCTs (105,759 participants) that compared the effects of statins with control (dummy) tablets and seven (40,594 participants) that compared an intensive statin regimen with a standard regimen. They then obtained largely unpublished information about the venous thromboembolic events that occurred during these trials (about 1,000 DVTs and PEs) from the original investigators. In the trials of statin versus control, allocation to statin therapy did not significantly reduce the risk of venous thromboembolic events. Thus, although events occurred in 465 participants who were given statins (0.9% of the participants) and in 521 participants who were given control tablets (1% of the participants), this difference in outcomes was not statistically significant—it could have happened by chance. Exclusion of the JUPITER trial results from the meta-analysis did not alter this finding. The researchers also found no evidence that intensive statin therapy reduced the risk of venous thromboembolic events compared to standard therapy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this meta-analysis do not support the suggestion that statins, either at the standard dose or at higher doses, reduce the risk of venous thromboembolic events substantially among healthy adults. It is possible that the effect of statins has been underestimated in this meta-analysis because of missing data or because of some other source of bias. Furthermore, because the total number of events in this meta-analysis is still relatively modest, these findings do not rule out the possibility that statins may reduce the risk of venous thromboembolic events by up to about one-fifth in some or all individuals. Additional large RCTs are now needed to investigate whether statin treatment does in fact reduce the risk of venous thromboembolic events in adults and, if it does, whether all statins have a similar effect and whether statin treatment is beneficial in everyone or only in specific subgroups of people.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001310.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Frits Rosendaal
The US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute provides information on deep vein thrombosis (including an animation about how DVT causes pulmonary embolisms), and information on pulmonary embolism
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information on deep vein thrombosis, including personal stories, on pulmonary embolism, and on statins; a Behind the Headlines article describes the JUPITER trial and its implications
The non-profit organization US National Blood Clot Alliance provides detailed information about deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism for patients and professionals and includes a selection of personal stories about these conditions
MedlinePlus has links to further information about deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and statins (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001310
PMCID: PMC3445446  PMID: 23028261
5.  Possible modification of Alzheimer’s disease by statins in midlife: interactions with genetic and non-genetic risk factors 
The benefits of statins, commonly prescribed for hypercholesterolemia, in treating Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have not yet been fully established. A recent randomized clinical trial did not show any therapeutic effects of two statins on cognitive function in AD. Interestingly, however, the results of the Rotterdam study, one of the largest prospective cohort studies, showed reduced risk of AD in statin users. Based on the current understanding of statin actions and AD pathogenesis, it is still worth exploring whether statins can prevent AD when administered decades before the onset of AD or from midlife. This review discusses the possible beneficial effects of statins, drawn from previous clinical observations, pathogenic mechanisms, which include β-amyloid (Aβ) and tau metabolism, genetic and non-genetic risk factors (apolipoprotein E, cholesterol, sex, hypertension, and diabetes), and other clinical features (vascular dysfunction and oxidative and inflammatory stress) of AD. These findings suggest that administration of statins in midlife might prevent AD in late life by modifying genetic and non-genetic risk factors for AD. It should be clarified whether statins inhibit Aβ accumulation, tau pathological features, and brain atrophy in humans. To answer this question, a randomized controlled study using amyloid positron emission tomography (PET), tau-PET, and magnetic resonance imaging would be useful. This clinical evaluation could help us to overcome this devastating disease.
doi:10.3389/fnagi.2014.00071
PMCID: PMC4005936  PMID: 24795626
statin; Alzheimer’s disease; prevention; Abeta; isoprenoids
6.  The use of statins in primary prevention  
Background
The use of statins in secondary prevention of cardiovascular events is well established. However, there is ongoing discussion about the use of statins in the context of primary prevention. Moreover statins - besides cholesterol-lowering effects - are assumed to have pleiotropic effects. Positive impacts on diseases like stroke, Alzheimer's disease or osteoporosis are discussed but still have to be proven.
Objectives
The aim of this report is first to investigate the efficacy and effectiveness of statins in primary prevention of cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular events and second to examine the economic implications for Germany - particularly in comparison to existing prevention programs. Finally ethical questions are considered.
Methods
A systematic literature search was performed for the period between 1998 and 2004 which yielded 3704 abstracts. Overall 43 articles were included for assessment and 167 for background information, according to predefined selection criteria.
Results
Most studies within the context of primary prevention describe significant risk reductions with regard to cardiovascular events; yet no significant results according to the reduction of the overall mortality rate can be seen. With respect to stroke, osteoporosis and Alzheimer's disease results are inconsistent. Regarding cost-effectiveness of primary prevention with statins results turn out to be inconsistent as well or even negative for populations with low to moderate risk. For groups with high cardiovascular risk the intervention is mostly assessed to be cost-effective. No cost-effectiveness study for Germany was found. According to a rough estimate of future expenses statin drug expenses of the German legal health insurance might increase at least by 50% in the case of an enlargement of the group of recipients.
Discussion
To thoroughly estimate the cost-effectiveness of the use of statins in primary prevention in Germany a model calculation including all relevant parameters has to be done. Moreover - from the economic as well as from the ethic point of view - one of the most important issues in primary prevention therapy is the question of compliance. The amount of risk reduction seen in primary prevention studies can be achieved only if patients as well as doctors follow therapeutic instructions and medical guidelines (as for example the guidelines of the "Adult Treatment Panel III", the "European guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice" or the guidelines of the German Association of Cardiology and of the "Arzneimittelkommission der deutschen Ärzteschaft für Koronare Herzkrankheit").
Conclusion
For (primary) prevention of cardiovascular diseases the use of statins as suggested in guidelines is recommended - provided that these guidelines are scientifically evaluated at regular intervals. Regarding stroke, osteoporosis and Alzheimer's disease definite conclusions cannot be drawn at present. Particular attention has to be paid to the problem of compliance both in statin-therapy as well as in alternative therapies. The cost-effectiveness of primary prevention with statins mainly depends on the development of statin prices.
PMCID: PMC3011349  PMID: 21289961
7.  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
Background
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.
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001713.
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)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001713
PMCID: PMC4165594  PMID: 25226301
8.  APP interacts with LRP4 and agrin to coordinate the development of the neuromuscular junction in mice 
eLife  2013;2:e00220.
ApoE, ApoE receptors and APP cooperate in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Intriguingly, the ApoE receptor LRP4 and APP are also required for normal formation and function of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). In this study, we show that APP interacts with LRP4, an obligate co-receptor for muscle-specific tyrosine kinase (MuSK). Agrin, a ligand for LRP4, also binds to APP and co-operatively enhances the interaction of APP with LRP4. In cultured myotubes, APP synergistically increases agrin-induced acetylcholine receptor (AChR) clustering. Deletion of the transmembrane domain of LRP4 (LRP4 ECD) results in growth retardation of the NMJ, and these defects are markedly enhanced in APP−/−;LRP4ECD/ECD mice. Double mutant NMJs are significantly reduced in size and number, resulting in perinatal lethality. Our findings reveal novel roles for APP in regulating neuromuscular synapse formation through hetero-oligomeric interaction with LRP4 and agrin and thereby provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms that govern NMJ formation and maintenance.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00220.001
eLife digest
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the formation of plaques in the brain by a protein called β-amyloid. This protein is generated by the cleavage of a precursor protein, and mutations in the gene that encodes amyloid precursor protein greatly increase the risk of developing a familial, early-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease in middle age. Individuals with a particular variant of a lipoprotein called ApoE (ApoE4) are also more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease at a younger age than the rest of the population. Due to its prevalence—approximately 20% of the world’s population are carriers of at least one allele—ApoE4 is the single-most important risk factor for the late-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease.
Amyloid precursor protein and the receptors for ApoE—in particular one called LRP4—are also essential for the development of the specialized synapse that forms between motor neurons and muscles. However, the mechanisms by which they, individually or together, contribute to the formation of these neuromuscular junctions are incompletely understood.
Now, Choi et al. have shown that amyloid precursor protein and LRP4 interact at the developing neuromuscular junction. A protein called agrin, which is produced by motor neurons and which must bind to LRP4 to induce neuromuscular junction formation, also binds directly to amyloid precursor protein. This latter interaction leads to the formation of a complex between LRP4 and amyloid precursor protein that robustly promotes the formation of the neuromuscular junction. Mutations that remove the part of LRP4 that anchors it to the cell membrane weaken this complex and thus reduce the development of neuromuscular junctions in mice, especially if the animals also lack amyloid precursor protein.
These three proteins thus seem to influence the development and maintenance of neuromuscular junctions by regulating the activity of a fourth protein, called MuSK, which is present on the surface of muscle cells. Activation of MuSK by agrin bound to LRP4 promotes the clustering of acetylcholine receptors in the membrane, which is a crucial step in the formation of the neuromuscular junction. Intriguingly, Choi et al. have now shown that amyloid precursor protein can, by interacting directly with LRP4, also activate MuSK even in the absence of agrin, albeit only to a small extent.
The work of Choi et al. suggests that the complex formed between agrin, amyloid precursor protein and LRP4 helps to focus the activation of MuSK, and thus the clustering of acetylcholine receptors, to the site of the developing neuromuscular junction. Since all four proteins are also found in the central nervous system, similar processes might well be at work during the development and maintenance of synapses in the brain. Further studies of these interactions, both at the neuromuscular junction and in the brain, should shed new light on both normal synapse formation and the synaptic dysfunction that is seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00220.002
doi:10.7554/eLife.00220
PMCID: PMC3748711  PMID: 23986861
neuromuscular synapse; neurodegeneration; nervous system development; Alzheimer's disease; LRP; ApoE; Mouse
9.  Comparing test-specific distress of susceptibility versus deterministic genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease 
Background
Genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) may be conferred by the susceptibility polymorphism apolipoprotein E (APOE), where the ε4 allele increases the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease but is not a definitive predictor of the disease, or by autosomal dominant mutations (e.g., the presenilins), which almost inevitably result in early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. The purpose of this study was to compare the psychological impact of using these two different types of genetic information to disclose genetic risk for AD to family members of affected patients.
Methods
Data were compared from two separate protocols. The Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer’s Disease (REVEAL) Study is a randomized, multi-site clinical trial that evaluated the impact of susceptibility testing for Alzheimer’s disease with APOE in 101 adult children of Alzheimer’s disease patients. A separate study, conducted at the University of Washington, assessed the impact of deterministic genetic testing by disclosing presenilin-1, presenilin-2, or TAU genotype to 22 individuals at risk for familial Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia. In both protocols, participants received genetic counseling and completed the Impact of Event Scale (IES), a measure of test-specific distress. Scores were analyzed at the time point closest to one year post-disclosure at which IES data were available. The role of genetic test result (positive vs. negative) and type of genetic testing (deterministic vs. susceptibility) in predicting log-transformed IES scores was assessed with linear regression, controlling for age, gender, and time from disclosure.
Results
Subjects from the REVEAL Study who learned that they were positive for the susceptibility gene APOE ε4+ experienced similar, low levels of test-specific distress compared to those who received positive results of deterministic testing in the University of Washington study (p= 0.78). APOE ε4+ individuals in the susceptibility protocol experienced more test-specific distress than those who tested ε4− in the same study (p= 0.04); however, among those receiving deterministic test disclosure, the subjects who received positive results did not experience significantly higher levels of distress when compared to those who received negative results (p= 0.88).
Conclusions
The findings of this preliminary study, with limited sample size, suggest that the test-related distress experienced by those receiving positive results for a deterministic mutation is similar to the distress experienced by those receiving positive results from genetic susceptibility testing, and that the majority of participants receiving genotype disclosure do not experience clinically significant distress as indicated by IES scores one year after learning of their test results.
doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2008.04.007
PMCID: PMC2610442  PMID: 19012865
genetic susceptibility testing; deterministic testing; Alzheimer’s disease; APOE; genetic counseling
10.  Clinical and Biomarker Changes in Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Disease 
The New England journal of medicine  2012;367(9):795-804.
BACKGROUND
The order and magnitude of pathologic processes in Alzheimer’s disease are not well understood, partly because the disease develops over many years. Autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease has a predictable age at onset and provides an opportunity to determine the sequence and magnitude of pathologic changes that culminate in symptomatic disease.
METHODS
In this prospective, longitudinal study, we analyzed data from 128 participants who underwent baseline clinical and cognitive assessments, brain imaging, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood tests. We used the participant’s age at baseline assessment and the parent’s age at the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease to calculate the estimated years from expected symptom onset (age of the participant minus parent’s age at symptom onset). We conducted cross-sectional analyses of baseline data in relation to estimated years from expected symptom onset in order to determine the relative order and magnitude of pathophysiological changes.
RESULTS
Concentrations of amyloid-beta (Aβ)42 in the CSF appeared to decline 25 years before expected symptom onset. Aβ deposition, as measured by positron-emission tomography with the use of Pittsburgh compound B, was detected 15 years before expected symptom onset. Increased concentrations of tau protein in the CSF and an increase in brain atrophy were detected 15 years before expected symptom onset. Cerebral hypometabolism and impaired episodic memory were observed 10 years before expected symptom onset. Global cognitive impairment, as measured by the Mini–Mental State Examination and the Clinical Dementia Rating scale, was detected 5 years before expected symptom onset, and patients met diagnostic criteria for dementia at an average of 3 years after expected symptom onset.
CONCLUSIONS
We found that autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease was associated with a series of pathophysiological changes over decades in CSF biochemical markers of Alzheimer’s disease, brain amyloid deposition, and brain metabolism as well as progressive cognitive impairment. Our results require confirmation with the use of longitudinal data and may not apply to patients with sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. (Funded by the National Institute on Aging and others; DIAN ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00869817.)
doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1202753
PMCID: PMC3474597  PMID: 22784036
11.  Testing the Right Target and the Right Drug at the Right Stage 
Science translational medicine  2011;3(111):111cm33.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the only leading cause of death for which no disease-modifying therapy is currently available. Recent disappointing trial results at the dementia stage of AD have raised multiple questions about our current approaches to the development of disease-modifying agents. Converging evidence suggests that the pathophysiological process of AD begins many years before the onset of dementia. So why do we keep testing drugs aimed at the initial stages of the disease process in patients at the end-stage of the illness?
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) remains one of the most feared consequences of aging, affecting more than one out of every ten individuals over the age of 65. With more than 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day in the United States alone, we are truly facing an AD epidemic. Over the past decade, a string of disappointing clinical trial results have raised concerns about our current strategy for development of AD-modifying therapies. Three hypotheses can explain these recent AD trial failures: (i) We are targeting the wrong pathophysiological mechanisms; (ii) The drugs do not engage the intended targets in patients; and (iii) The drugs are hitting the right targets, but are doing so at the wrong stage of the disease. Here, we address the third supposition and suggest that specific amyloid-based therapies be directed at much earlier stages of ADperhaps even prior to the emergence of clinical symptoms. Furthermore, we argue that the field has sufficient tools to begin “secondary prevention” trials in asymptomatic individuals whoare at high risk for progression to cognitive impairment and AD dementia.
doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3002609
PMCID: PMC3752906  PMID: 22133718
12.  The Central Role of AMP-Kinase and Energy Homeostasis Impairment in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Multifactor Network Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78919.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia worldwide, affecting the elderly population. It is characterized by the hallmark pathology of amyloid-β deposition, neurofibrillary tangle formation, and extensive neuronal degeneration in the brain. Wealth of data related to Alzheimer’s disease has been generated to date, nevertheless, the molecular mechanism underlying the etiology and pathophysiology of the disease is still unknown. Here we described a method for the combined analysis of multiple types of genome-wide data aimed at revealing convergent evidence interest that would not be captured by a standard molecular approach. Lists of Alzheimer-related genes (seed genes) were obtained from different sets of data on gene expression, SNPs, and molecular targets of drugs. Network analysis was applied for identifying the regions of the human protein-protein interaction network showing a significant enrichment in seed genes, and ultimately, in genes associated to Alzheimer’s disease, due to the cumulative effect of different combinations of the starting data sets. The functional properties of these enriched modules were characterized, effectively considering the role of both Alzheimer-related seed genes and genes that closely interact with them. This approach allowed us to present evidence in favor of one of the competing theories about AD underlying processes, specifically evidence supporting a predominant role of metabolism-associated biological process terms, including autophagy, insulin and fatty acid metabolic processes in Alzheimer, with a focus on AMP-activated protein kinase. This central regulator of cellular energy homeostasis regulates a series of brain functions altered in Alzheimer’s disease and could link genetic perturbation with neuronal transmission and energy regulation, representing a potential candidate to be targeted by therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078919
PMCID: PMC3827084  PMID: 24265728
13.  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.
doi:10.1007/s12035-013-8439-1
PMCID: PMC3825141  PMID: 23519520
Brain ischemia; Blood–brain barrier; Neuronal death; Dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; Genes; Amyloid precursor protein; Presenilins; Apolipoproteins; Secretases
14.  Cholinesterase Inhibitors in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Systematic Review of Randomised Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(11):e338.
Background
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to a transitional zone between normal ageing and dementia. Despite the uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI as a clinical entity, clinical trials have been conducted in the attempt to study the role of cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs) currently approved for symptomatic treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer disease (AD), in preventing progression from MCI to AD. The objective of this review is to assess the effects of ChEIs (donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine) in delaying the conversion from MCI to Alzheimer disease or dementia.
Methods and Findings
The terms “donepezil”, “rivastigmine”, “galantamine”, and “mild cognitive impairment” and their variants, synonyms, and acronyms were used as search terms in four electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, PsycINFO) and three registers: the Cochrane Collaboration Trial Register, Current Controlled Trials, and ClinicalTrials.gov. Published and unpublished studies were included if they were randomized clinical trials published (or described) in English and conducted among persons who had received a diagnosis of MCI and/or abnormal memory function documented by a neuropsychological assessment. A standardized data extraction form was used. The reporting quality was assessed using the Jadad scale. Three published and five unpublished trials met the inclusion criteria (three on donepezil, two on rivastigmine, and three on galantamine). Enrolment criteria differed among the trials, so the study populations were not homogeneous. The duration of the trials ranged from 24 wk to 3 y. No significant differences emerged in the probability of conversion from MCI to AD or dementia between the treated groups and the placebo groups. The rate of conversion ranged from 13% (over 2 y) to 25% (over 3 y) among treated patients, and from 18% (over 2 y) to 28% (over 3 y) among those in the placebo groups. Only for two studies was it possible to derive point estimates of the relative risk of conversion: 0.85 (95% confidence interval 0.64–1.12), and 0.84 (0.57–1.25). Statistically significant differences emerged for three secondary end points. However, when adjusting for multiple comparisons, only one difference remained significant (i.e., the rate of atrophy in the whole brain).
Conclusions
The use of ChEIs in MCI was not associated with any delay in the onset of AD or dementia. Moreover, the safety profile showed that the risks associated with ChEIs are not negligible. The uncertainty regarding MCI as a clinical entity raises the question as to the scientific validity of these trials.
A systematic review of trials of cholinesterase inhibitors for preventing transition of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia, conducted by Roberto Raschetti and colleagues, found no difference between treatment and control groups and concluded that uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI casts doubts on the validity of such trials.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Worldwide, more than 24 million people have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, problem solving, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease (AD). The risk of developing AD increases with age—AD is rare in people younger than 65 but about half of people over 85 years old have it. The earliest symptom of AD is usually difficulty in remembering new information. As the disease progresses, patients may become confused and have problems expressing themselves. Their behavior and personality can also change. In advanced AD, patients need help with daily activities like dressing and eating, and eventually lose their ability to recognize relatives and to communicate. There is no cure for AD but a class of drugs called “cholinesterase inhibitors” can sometimes temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms. Three cholinesterase inhibitors—donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine—are currently approved for use in mild-to-moderate AD.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some experts have questioned the efficacy of cholinesterase inhibitors in AD, but other experts and patient support groups have called for these drugs to be given to patients with a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as well as to those with mild AD. People with MCI have memory problems that are more severe than those normally seen in people of their age but no other symptoms of dementia. They are thought to have an increased risk of developing AD, but it is not known whether everyone with MCI eventually develops AD, and there is no standardized way to diagnose MCI. Despite these uncertainties, several clinical trials have investigated whether cholinesterase inhibitors prevent progression from MCI to AD. In this study, the researchers have assessed whether the results of these trials provide any evidence that cholinesterase inhibitors can prevent MCI progressing to AD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic review of the medical literature to find trials that had addressed this issue, which met criteria that they had defined clearly in advance of their search. They identified three published and five unpublished randomized controlled trials (studies in which patients randomly receive the test drug or an inactive placebo) that investigated the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the progression of MCI. The researchers obtained the results of six of these trials—four examined the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the conversion of MCI to clinically diagnosed AD or dementia (the primary end point); all six examined the effect of the drugs on several secondary end points (for example, individual aspects of cognitive function). None of the drugs produced a statistically significant difference (a difference that is unlikely to have happened by chance) in the probability of progression from MCI to AD. The only statistically significant secondary end point after adjustment for multiple comparisons (when many outcomes are considered, false positive results can occur unless specific mathematical techniques are used to prevent this problem) was a decrease in the rate of brain shrinkage associated with galantamine treatment. More patients treated with cholinesterase inhibitors dropped out of trials because of adverse effects than patients given placebo. Finally, in the one trial that reported all causes of deaths, one participant who received placebo and six who received galantamine died.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the use of cholinesterase inhibitors is not associated with any delay in the onset of clinically diagnosed AD or dementia in people with MCI. They also show that the use of these drugs has no effect on most surrogate (substitute) indicators of AD but that the risks associated with their use are not negligible. However, because MCI has not yet been clearly defined as a clinical condition that precedes dementia, some (even many) of the patients enrolled into the trials that the researchers assessed may not actually have had MCI. Thus, further clinical trials are needed to clarify whether cholinesterase inhibitors can delay the progression of MCI to dementia, but these additional trials should not be done until the diagnosis of MCI has been standardized.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040338.
An essay by Matthews and colleagues, in the October 2007 issue of PLoS Medicine, discusses how mild cognitive impairment is currently diagnosed
The US Alzheimer's Association provides information about all aspects of Alzheimer disease, including fact sheets on treatments for Alzheimer disease and on mild cognitive impairment
The UK Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and caregivers on all aspects of dementia, including drug treatments and mild cognitive impairment
The UK charity DIPEx provides short video clips of personal experiences of care givers of people with dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040338
PMCID: PMC2082649  PMID: 18044984
15.  Brain amyloid-β oligomers in ageing and Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2013;136(5):1383-1398.
Alzheimer’s disease begins about two decades before the onset of symptoms or neuron death, and is believed to be caused by pathogenic amyloid-β aggregates that initiate a cascade of molecular events culminating in widespread neurodegeneration. The microtubule binding protein tau may mediate the effects of amyloid-β in this cascade. Amyloid plaques comprised of insoluble, fibrillar amyloid-β aggregates are the most characteristic feature of Alzheimer’s disease. However, the correspondence between the distribution of plaques and the pattern of neurodegeneration is tenuous. This discrepancy has stimulated the investigation of other amyloid-β aggregates, including soluble amyloid-β oligomers. Different soluble amyloid-β oligomers have been studied in several mouse models, but not systematically in humans. Here, we measured three amyloid-β oligomers previously described in mouse models—amyloid-β trimers, Aβ*56 and amyloid-β dimers—in brain tissue from 75 cognitively intact individuals, ranging from young children to the elderly, and 58 impaired subjects with mild cognitive impairment or probable Alzheimer’s disease. As in mouse models, where amyloid-β trimers appear to be the fundamental amyloid-β assembly unit of Aβ*56 and are present in young mice prior to memory decline, amyloid-β trimers in humans were present in children and adolescents; their levels rose gradually with age and were significantly above baseline in subjects in their 70s. Aβ*56 levels were negligible in children and young adults, rose significantly above baseline in subjects in their 40s and increased steadily thereafter. Amyloid-β dimers were undetectable until subjects were in their 60s; their levels then increased sharply and correlated with plaque load. Remarkably, in cognitively intact individuals we found strong positive correlations between Aβ*56 and two pathological forms of soluble tau (tau-CP13 and tau-Alz50), and negative correlations between Aβ*56 and two postsynaptic proteins (drebrin and fyn kinase), but none between amyloid-β dimers or amyloid-β trimers and tau or synaptic proteins. Comparing impaired with age-matched unimpaired subjects, we found the highest levels of amyloid-β dimers, but the lowest levels of Aβ*56 and amyloid-β trimers, in subjects with probable Alzheimer’s disease. In conclusion, in cognitively normal adults Aβ*56 increased ahead of amyloid-β dimers or amyloid-β trimers, and pathological tau proteins and postsynaptic proteins correlated with Aβ*56, but not amyloid-β dimers or amyloid-β trimers. We propose that Aβ*56 may play a pathogenic role very early in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt062
PMCID: PMC3634198  PMID: 23576130
amyloid-β; Alzheimer; dimer; trimer; Aβ*56; oligomer
16.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/awq033
PMCID: PMC2850581  PMID: 20375137
Alzheimer’s disease; presenilin 2; human genetics; dementia; amyloid; Volga German
17.  Cellular and animal models for high-throughput screening of therapeutic agents for the treatment of the diseases of the elderly in general and Alzheimer’s disease in particular† 
It is currently thought that the dementia of Alzheimer’s disease is due to the neurotoxicity of the deposits or aggregates of amyloid-β (Aβ) in the extracellular space of the cerebral cortex. This model has been widely criticized because there is a poor correlation between deposits and dementia. Others have questioned whether Aβ is truly neurotoxic. Yet, in spite of these concerns, the search for therapeutic agents has been based on the development of mouse models transfected with mutant genes associated in humans with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. A major limitation of these models is that although they exhibit many of the pathological and clinical manifestation of the human disease, the bulk of individuals who develop the dementia of Alzheimer’s disease have none of these mutant genes. Furthermore, nine clinical trials of drugs that were effective in transgenic mice failed to show any benefit in patients. Finally, a major unresolved issue with the Aβ model is that since Aβ is produced in everyone, why are deposits only seen in the elderly? This issue must be resolved if we are to understand the etiology of the disease and develop test systems for both diagnosis and drug discovery. Published studies from my laboratory demonstrate that in human cerebrospinal fluid immunoreactive Aβ is only present as a complex with two chaperones, ERp57 and calreticulin and is N-glycosylated. This complex formation is catalyzed by the posttranslational protein processing system of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Others have reported that in plaque Aβ is present only as the naked peptide. Together these results suggest that both plaque and dementia are secondary to an age related decline in the capacity of the ER to catalyze protein, posttranslational processing. Since the synaptic membrane proteins necessary for a functioning memory are also processed in the ER, these findings would suggest that the loss of cognition is due to a decline in the capacity of the neuron to produce and maintain functioning synapses. Work from my laboratory and from others further indicate that the components of the ER, posttranslational, protein processing pathway do dramatically decline with age. These data suggest that this decline may be found in all cells and could account not only for the dementia of Alzheimer’s disease, but also for many of the other manifestations of the aging process. These observations also suggest that declining ER function has a role in two well-recognized phenomena associated with aging: a loss of mitochondrial function and a decrease in myelin. Finally, based on this paradigm I propose new cellular and animals models for high-throughput screening for drug discovery.
doi:10.3389/fphar.2013.00059
PMCID: PMC3651961  PMID: 23717280
amyloid-β; protein processing; chaperones; N-glycosylation; dementia
18.  Recent developments in Alzheimer's disease therapeutics 
BMC Medicine  2009;7:7.
Alzheimer's disease is a devastating neurological disorder that affects more than 37 million people worldwide. The economic burden of Alzheimer's disease is massive; in the United States alone, the estimated direct and indirect annual cost of patient care is at least $100 billion. Current FDA-approved drugs for Alzheimer's disease do not prevent or reverse the disease, and provide only modest symptomatic benefits. Driven by the clear unmet medical need and a growing understanding of the molecular pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease, the number of agents in development has increased dramatically in recent years. Truly *disease-modifying' therapies that target the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimer's disease have now reached late stages of human clinical trials. Primary targets include beta-amyloid, whose presence and accumulation in the brain is thought to contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease, and tau protein which, when hyperphosphorylated, results in the self-assembly of tangles of paired helical filaments also believed to be involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. In this review, we briefly discuss the current status of Alzheimer's disease therapies under study, as well the scientific context in which they have been developed.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-7-7
PMCID: PMC2649159  PMID: 19228370
19.  Mid- and Late-Life Diabetes in Relation to the Risk of Dementia 
Diabetes  2009;58(1):71-77.
OBJECTIVE—We aimed to verify the association between diabetes and the risk of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and vascular dementia in twins and to explore whether genetic and early-life environmental factors could contribute to this association.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—This study included 13,693 twin individuals aged ≥65 years. Dementia was diagnosed according to DSM-IV (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed.) criteria. Information on diabetes was collected from the inpatient registry and self- or informant-reported history of diabetes. Data were analyzed following two strategies: 1) unmatched case-control analysis for all participants using generalized estimating equation (GEE) models and 2) cotwin matched case-control analysis for dementia-discordant twin pairs using conditional logistic regression.
RESULTS—Of all participants, 467 were diagnosed with dementia, including 292 with Alzheimer's disease and 105 with vascular dementia, and an additional 170 were diagnosed with questionable dementia. Diabetes was present in 1,396 subjects. In GEE models, diabetes was associated with adjusted odds ratios (ORs) (95% CI) of 1.89 (1.51–2.38) for dementia, 1.69 (1.16–2.36) for Alzheimer's disease, and 2.17 (1.36–3.47) for vascular dementia. Compared with late-life diabetes (onset age ≥65 years), the risk effect of mid-life diabetes (onset age <65 years) on dementia was stronger. Conditional logistic analysis of 210 dementia-discordant twin pairs led to ORs of 2.41 (1.05–5.51) and 0.68 (0.30–1.53) for dementia related to mid- and late-life diabetes, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS—Diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia. The risk is stronger when diabetes occurs at mid-life than in late life. Genetic and early-life environmental factors might contribute to the late-life diabetes–dementia association but could not account for the mid-life diabetes–dementia association.
doi:10.2337/db08-0586
PMCID: PMC2606895  PMID: 18952836
20.  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.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws327
PMCID: PMC3580269  PMID: 23358601
Alzheimer’s disease; posterior cortical atrophy; logopenic variant of PPA; positron emission tomography (PET); functional networks
21.  Dementia 
Clinical Evidence  2010;2010:1001.
Introduction
Dementia is characterised by chronic, global, non-reversible deterioration in memory, executive function, and personality. Speech and motor function may also be impaired.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical question: What are the effects of treatments on cognitive symptoms of dementia (Alzheimer's, Lewy body, or vascular)? What are the effects of treatments on behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (Alzheimer's, Lewy body, or vascular)? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to April 2008 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 33 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions
In this systematic review, we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine), antidepressants (clomipramine, fluoxetine, imipramine, sertraline), antipsychotics (haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone), aromatherapy, benzodiazepines (diazepam, lorazepam), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), cognitive stimulation, exercise, ginkgo biloba, memantine, mood stabilisers (carbamazepine, sodium valproate/valproic acid), music therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), omega 3 (fish oil), reminiscence therapy, and statins.
Key Points
Dementia is characterised by chronic, global, non-reversible deterioration in memory, executive function, and personality. Speech and motor function may also be impaired.
Median life expectancy for people with Alzheimer's and Lewy body dementia is about 6 years after diagnosis, although many people may live far longer.
RCTs of dementia are often not representative of all people with dementia; most are 6 months or less, not in primary care, and most RCTs are in people with Alzheimer's disease. There are fewer RCTs in people with vascular dementia, and fewer still in people with Lewy body dementia.
Cognitive symptoms of dementia can be improved by acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, galantamine, and rivastigmine). Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors seem to improve cognitive function, global state, and activities of daily living scores compared with placebo at 26 weeks in people with Alzheimer's disease.However, they may be associated with an increase in adverse effects, particularly GI symptoms (anorexia, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea).
We don't know whether cognitive stimulation, music therapy, reminiscence therapy, omega 3 fish oil, statins, or NSAIDs are effective at improving cognitive outcomes in people with cognitive symptoms of dementia, as we found insufficient evidence.
In people with cognitive symptoms, memantine may improve global state and activities of daily living scores in people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease over 24 to 28 weeks, but we don't know about these in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Although memantine is associated with a statistically significant increase in cognition scores in some population groups, the clinical importance of these results is unclear.
Ginkgo biloba is unlikely to improve cognitive function in people with Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia. However, evidence is of poor quality so this conclusion should be interpreted with caution.
Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors may marginally improve neuropsychiatric symptoms compared with placebo in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but they are also associated with adverse effects.
Antidepressants (clomipramine, fluoxetine, imipramine, sertraline) may improve depressive symptoms compared with placebo in people with Alzheimer's disease associated with depression. However, RCTs were small and short term, and adverse effects were sparsely reported.
Memantine may be associated with a small improvement in neuropsychiatric symptoms compared with placebo in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but it is also associated with adverse effects.
We don't know whether diazepam, lorazepam, aromatherapy, CBT, exercise, carbamazepine, or sodium valproate/valproic acid are effective at improving neuropsychiatric symptoms in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, as we found insufficient evidence.
Some antipsychotics may improve neuropsychiatric symptoms or aggression in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but antipsychotics are also associated with an increase risk of severe adverse events such as stroke, TIA, or death.
CAUTION: Regulatory bodies have issued alerts that both conventional and atypical antipsychotics are associated with an increased risk of death in elderly people treated for dementia-related psychosis.
PMCID: PMC2907611  PMID: 21726471
22.  Dissecting phenotypic traits linked to human resilience to Alzheimer’s pathology 
Brain  2013;136(8):2510-2526.
Clinico-pathological correlation studies and positron emission tomography amyloid imaging studies have shown that some individuals can tolerate substantial amounts of Alzheimer’s pathology in their brains without experiencing dementia. Few details are known about the neuropathological phenotype of these unique cases that might prove relevant to understanding human resilience to Alzheimer’s pathology. We conducted detailed quantitative histopathological and biochemical assessments on brains from non-demented individuals before death whose brains were free of substantial Alzheimer’s pathology, non-demented individuals before death but whose post-mortem examination demonstrated significant amounts of Alzheimer’s changes (‘mismatches’), and demented Alzheimer’s cases. Quantification of amyloid-β plaque burden, stereologically-based counts of neurofibrillary tangles, neurons and reactive glia, and morphological analyses of axons were performed in the multimodal association cortex lining the superior temporal sulcus. Levels of synaptic integrity markers, and soluble monomeric and multimeric amyloid-β and tau species were measured. Our results indicate that some individuals can accumulate equivalent loads of amyloid-β plaques and tangles to those found in demented Alzheimer’s cases without experiencing dementia. Analyses revealed four main phenotypic differences among these two groups: (i) mismatches had striking preservation of neuron numbers, synaptic markers and axonal geometry compared to demented cases; (ii) demented cases had significantly higher burdens of fibrillar thioflavin-S-positive plaques and of oligomeric amyloid-β deposits reactive to conformer-specific antibody NAB61 than mismatches; (iii) strong and selective accumulation of hyperphosphorylated soluble tau multimers into the synaptic compartment was noted in demented cases compared with controls but not in mismatches; and (iv) the robust glial activation accompanying amyloid-β and tau pathologies in demented cases was remarkably reduced in mismatches. Further biochemical measurements of soluble amyloid-β species—monomers, dimers and higher molecular weight oligomers—in total brain homogenates and synaptoneurosomal preparations failed to demonstrate significant differences between mismatches and demented cases. Together, these data suggest that amyloid-β plaques and tangles do not inevitably result in neural system derangement and dementia in all individuals. We identified distinct phenotypic characteristics in the profile of brain fibrillar and soluble amyloid-β and tau accrual and in the glial response that discriminated demented and non-demented individuals with high loads of Alzheimer’s pathology. Amyloid-β deposition in the form of fibrillar plaques and intimately related oligomeric amyloid-β assemblies, hyperphosphorylated soluble tau species localized in synapses, and glial activation emerged in this series as likely mediators of neurotoxicity and altered cognition, providing further insight into factors and pathways potentially involved in human susceptibility or resilience to Alzheimer’s pathological changes.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt171
PMCID: PMC3722351  PMID: 23824488
Alzheimers disease; amyloid pathology; tau pathology; resilience; astrocytes; microglia
23.  Choroidal Proteins Involved in Cerebrospinal Fluid Production may be Potential Drug Targets for Alzheimer’s Disease Therapy 
Alzheimer’s disease is known to be the most common form of dementia in the elderly. It is clinically characterized by impairment of cognitive functions, as well as changes in personality, behavioral disturbances and an impaired ability to perform activities of daily living. To date, there are no effective ways to cure or reverse the disease. Genetic studies of early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease cases revealed causative mutations in the genes encoding β-amyloid precursor protein and the γ-secretase-complex components presenilin-1 and presenilin-2, supporting an important role of β-amyloid in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Compromised function of the choroid plexus and defective cerebrospinal fluid production and turnover, with diminished clearance of β-amyloid, may play an important role in late-onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease. If reduced cerebrospinal fluid turnover is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, then therapeutic strategies to improve cerebrospinal fluid flow are reasonable. However, the role of deficient cerebrospinal fluid dynamics in Alzheimer’s disease and the relevance of choroidal proteins as potential therapeutic targets to enhance cerebrospinal fluid turnover have received relatively little research attention. In this paper, we discuss several choroidal proteins, such as Na+-K+ ATPase, carbonic anhydrase, and aquaporin 1, that may be targets for pharmacological up-regulation of cerebrospinal fluid formation. The search for potentially beneficial drugs useful to ameliorate Alzheimer’s disease by facilitating cerebrospinal fluid production and turnover may be an important area for future research. However, the ultimate utility of such modulators in the management of Alzheimer’s disease remains to be determined. Here, we hypothesize that caffeine, the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world, may be an attractive therapeutic candidate for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease since long-term caffeine consumption may augment cerebrospinal fluid production. Other potential mechanisms of cognitive protection by caffeine have been suggested by recent studies.
doi:10.4137/PMC.S6509
PMCID: PMC3072647  PMID: 21487536
Alzheimer’s disease; aquaporin 1; caffeine; carbonic anhydrase II; cerebrospinal fluid pressure; cerebrospinal fluid production; choroid plexus; intracranial pressure; Na+-K+ ATPase; SLC4A10
24.  Relationship of dementia screening tests with biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease 
Brain  2010;133(11):3290-3300.
Screening tests for Alzheimer’s disease lack sensitivity and specificity. We developed the AD8, a brief dementia screening interview validated against clinical and cognitive evaluations, as an improvement over current screening methods. Because insufficient follow-up has occurred to validate the AD8 against the neuropathologic findings of Alzheimer’s disease, we investigated whether AD8 scores correspond to impairment in episodic memory testing and changes in biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease (cerebrospinal fluid and amyloid imaging with Pittsburgh compound B) characteristic of symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease. We also compared informant-based assessments with brief performance-based dementia screening measurements such as the Mini Mental State Exam. The sample (n = 257) had a mean age of 75.4 years with 15.1 years of education; 88.7% were Caucasian and 45.5% were male. The sample was divided into two groups based on their AD8 scores: those with a negative dementia screening test (AD8 score 0 or 1, n = 137) and those with a positive dementia screening test (AD8 score ≥2, n = 120). Individuals with positive AD8 scores had abnormal Pittsburgh compound B binding (P < 0.001) and cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers (P < 0.001) compared with individuals with negative AD8 scores. Individuals with positive AD8 tests and positive biomarkers scored in the impaired range on the Wechsler Logical Memory Story A (mean score 7.0 ± 4.5 for Pittsburgh compound B; mean score 7.6 ± 5.3 for cerebrospinal fluid amyloid beta protein 1–42). The AD8 area under the curve for Pittsburgh compound B was 0.737 (95% confidence interval: 0.64–0.83) and for cerebrospinal fluid amyloid beta protein 1–42 was 0.685 (95% confidence interval: 0.60–0.77) suggesting good discrimination. The AD8 had superior sensitivity in detecting early stages of dementia compared with the Mini Mental State Examination. The AD8 had a likelihood ratio of a positive test of 5.8 (95% confidence interval: 5.4–6.3) and likelihood ratio of a negative test of 0.04 (95% confidence interval: 0.03–0.06), increasing the pre-test probability of an individual having symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals with AD8 scores of ≥2 had a biomarker phenotype consistent with Alzheimer’s disease and lower performance on episodic memory tests, supporting a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Informant-based assessments may be superior to performance-based screening measures such as the Mini Mental State Examination in corresponding to underlying Alzheimer’s disease pathology, particularly at the earliest stages of decline. The use of a brief test such as the AD8 may improve strategies for detecting dementia in community settings where biomarkers may not be readily available, and may enrich clinical trial recruitment by increasing the likelihood that participants have underlying biomarker abnormalities.
doi:10.1093/brain/awq204
PMCID: PMC2965421  PMID: 20823087
AD8; Alzheimer’s disease; screening; biomarkers; preclinical; cognition
25.  Dementia 
Clinical Evidence  2012;2012:1001.
Introduction
Dementia is characterised by chronic, global, non-reversible deterioration in memory, executive function, and personality. Speech and motor function may also be impaired.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of treatments on cognitive symptoms of dementia (Alzheimer's, Lewy body, or vascular)? What are the effects of treatments on behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (Alzheimer's, Lewy body, or vascular)? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to July 2011 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically; please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 49 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions
In this systematic review, we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine), antidepressants (clomipramine, fluoxetine, imipramine, sertraline), antipsychotics (haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone), aromatherapy, benzodiazepines (diazepam, lorazepam), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), cognitive stimulation, exercise, ginkgo biloba, memantine, mood stabilisers (carbamazepine, sodium valproate/valproic acid), music therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), omega 3 (fish oil), reminiscence therapy, and statins.
Key Points
Dementia is characterised by chronic, global, non-reversible deterioration in memory, executive function, and personality. Speech and motor function may also be impaired.
Median life expectancy for people with Alzheimer's and Lewy body dementia is about 6 years after diagnosis, although many people may live far longer.
RCTs of dementia are often not representative of all people with dementia; most are of 6 months' duration or less, not in primary care, and in people with Alzheimer's disease. Few RCTs address vascular dementia, and fewer still Lewy body dementia.
Some cognitive symptoms of dementia may be improved by acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (donepezil, galantamine, and rivastigmine). Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors may improve cognitive function and global function scores compared with placebo at 12 to 26 weeks in people with Alzheimer's disease. However, they may be associated with an increase in adverse effects, particularly GI symptoms (anorexia, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea).
We don't know whether cognitive stimulation, music therapy, reminiscence therapy, omega 3 fish oil, statins, or NSAIDs are effective at improving cognitive outcomes in people with cognitive symptoms of dementia, as we found insufficient evidence.
In people with cognitive symptoms, memantine may modestly improve cognitive function and global function scores in people with Alzheimer's disease over 24 to 28 weeks, and may modestly improve activities of daily living scores in people with moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease. Although memantine is associated with a statistically significant increase in cognition scores in some population groups, the clinical importance of some of these results is unclear.
We found inconsistent evidence on the effects of ginkgo biloba on cognitive outcomes, which varied by the analysis performed. We found no evidence that ginkgo biloba improves activities of daily living outcomes, but the available evidence was weak.
Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors may marginally improve neuropsychiatric symptoms compared with placebo in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but they are also associated with adverse effects.
We don't know whether antidepressants (clomipramine, fluoxetine, imipramine, sertraline) improve depressive symptoms in people with Alzheimer's disease associated with depression. Many RCTs were small and short term, and adverse effects were sparsely reported.
Memantine may be associated with a small improvement in neuropsychiatric symptoms compared with placebo in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but it is also associated with adverse effects.
We don't know whether diazepam, lorazepam, aromatherapy, CBT, exercise, carbamazepine, or sodium valproate/valproic acid are effective at improving neuropsychiatric symptoms in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, as we found insufficient evidence.
Some antipsychotics may improve neuropsychiatric symptoms or aggression in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, but antipsychotics are also associated with an increased risk of severe adverse events such as stroke, TIA, or death.
CAUTION: Regulatory bodies have issued alerts that both conventional and atypical antipsychotics are associated with an increased risk of death in older people treated for dementia-related psychosis.
PMCID: PMC3437526  PMID: 23870856

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