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Commentary

Dr. Craig Stark Comments for Science Magazine

By Carousel Slider, Commentary, Community Events, In the News

UCI MIND faculty member, Craig Stark, PhD was recently quoted in Science Magazine discussing the critical role scientists play in helping improve society. The article focuses on a push to better understand the science behind addiction, and how scientists are spreading evidence-based treatment knowledge through regional and national seminars. By regularly hosting seminars to gather scientific and legal experts, researchers can better inform the criminal justice system on how to improve substance abuse recovery rates in the incarcerated population. Dr. Stark, a neurobiologist who specializes in brain imaging at UCI, has presented at dozens of these legal seminars, speaking on…

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NPR Reports on the EXERT Study

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NPR recently spoke on All Things Considered about the EXERT Study, a nationwide clinical trial of exercise led by Carl Cotman, PhD, UCI MIND’s Founding Director, and Laura Baker, PhD, Associate Director of the ADRC at Wake Forest School of Medicine. The study involves an 18-month exercise program at the local YMCA for 65-89 year-olds with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Throughout the program, researchers look at participants’ cognition, blood flow, atrophy (cell loss), and harmful protein accumulation in the brain. Researchers hope to learn about the clinical effect of exercise, as well as the scientific basis for their findings. NPR interviewed…

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The Real Deal on Brain Health Supplements

By Commentary, In the News

The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH), in partnership with AARP, recently released an extensive report reviewing the current evidence on brain health supplements. AARP formed the GCBH by bringing together an independent group of scientists, physicians, researchers, and other experts. Click here to learn more about these specialists. The GCBH found that there was a lack of evidence for effectiveness, concerns about false claims in marketing, and uncertainty of the possible risks of brain health supplements, since they are not required to be reviewed for purity, safety, and efficacy. The GCBH concluded that no endorsement could be made for…

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Alzheimer’s prevention clinical trial discontinued

By Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Joshua Grill, PhD The field of Alzheimer’s disease drug development received more troubling news yesterday, when the leaders of the GENERATION program halted their prevention clinical trials of a drug aiming to prevent the formation of the beta amyloid protein in people at risk to get Alzheimer’s disease. The GENERATION program is led by investigators at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and is an important study in people at increased genetic risk to someday develop Alzheimer’s disease, based on the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene. The trials were stopped because preliminary results indicated that the drug under study, CNP520 (being developed…

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The Impact of Alzheimer’s Disease on the Workplace

By Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Joshua Grill, PhD, Director of UCI MIND A recent report from The Economist concludes that three neurological disorders — migraine, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease — are impacting workplace productivity. Notably, all three conditions disproportionately affect women. While it is now clear that Alzheimer’s disease begins decades prior to diagnosis, the larger impact on the global economy results from the growing number of workers who are trying to balance employment as well as caregiving for a parent with the disease. More than 16 million Americans are unpaid caregivers for someone with Alzheimer’s disease and the most common caregiver is…

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UCI MIND scientists discover exercise can reprogram genes

By Carousel Slider, Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Carl W. Cotman, PhD and Nicole C. Berchtold, PhD It is increasingly recognized that exercise builds brain health. At a fundamental level, brain health and function depend on the expression of the brain’s genes, the building blocks of cells. In a recent paper that appeared in the journal “Neurobiology of Aging” (2019), Drs. Carl Cotman, Nicole Berchtold and coworkers demonstrated that in the brains of healthy older people, exercise reprograms gene expression patterns to a more youthful state, even in cognitively normal people (75-100 yrs old). Genes that were particularly targeted are those that boost cellular energy production and build…

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UCI MIND researchers define pathway required to slow Huntington’s disease progression in mice

By Carousel Slider, Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Joan Steffan, PhD In a recent paper published in Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences, colleagues and I show that a critical regulator of the immune system – called kinase IKKbeta – helps slow the onset of Huntington’s disease (HD) in mice, and this may be due to activation of a process called autophagy.  Autophagy helps cells clean out and recycle their ‘trash’. Accumulation of trash can occur as we age and when disease is present, so regular cleaning enabled by autophagy is critical to maintain cellular function. In HD, brain cell autophagy fails, leading to an accumulation of harmful proteins that…

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Exciting News in Huntington’s Disease Research

By Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Joan Steffan, PhD & Leslie Thompson, PhD Results from a recent study published by Tabrizi and colleagues and Ionis/Roche Pharmaceuticals in The New England Journal of Medicine are very exciting for the Huntington’s disease (HD) patient, family, and scientific communities. The researchers showed for the first time that treatment with a huntingtin lowering drug called an antisense oligonucleotide, or ASO, is safe in HD patients.  Huntingtin is the protein linked to the genetic mutation that causes HD. With these results, researchers are planning a large clinical trial to test whether ASO can reduce symptoms in HD patients. The HD community is…

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Commentary on new FDA warning for insomnia medications

By Carousel Slider, Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Bryce Mander, PhD The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently required some sleep medications which are commonly used to treat insomnia to add black box warning labels. The reason for this decision is because there have been reported incidents of individuals engaging in activities that commonly occur during wakefulness during sleep while on these medications, including sleep walking, sleep driving, sleep eating, and sleep cooking. On rare occasions, these symptoms have resulted in serious injuries or life-threatening incidents, which has led to the inclusion of the black box label. The FDA has also issued a contraindication for…

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Using video games to detect (and protect) those at risk for Alzheimer’s disease

By Commentary, Community Events, In the News

Contributed by Craig Stark, PhD Researchers from the UK have just released a report showing how we can extract valuable cognitive data out of video game performance. Using the mobile game Sea Hero Quest, which relies heavily on spatial memory and navigation, the researchers were able to discriminate healthy aging from those at-risk for Alzheimer’s. By using games that are fun and engaging, but are designed to tap into specific brain processes, we can usher in a new era of diagnosis. Research in my lab here at UCI is further looking at whether playing certain kinds of video games can actually…

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Commentary on anti-inflammatories for Alzheimer’s prevention

By Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Andrea J. Tenner, PhD Researchers at McGill University recently published results from a clinical trial of the common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), naproxen, showing that it was ineffective at preventing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in cognitively unimpaired people with a family history. I am not surprised by this result, as naproxen is a nonselective inhibitor of inflammatory mediators.  Dr. Breitner, the lead investigator on the manuscript, is an excellent physician scientist.  The study authors indicated that the results do not rule out a benefit from mid-life anti-inflammatory drugs, and that the study turned out to have too few participants…

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Dr. Kim Green Comments on ‘Missing Microglia’ for The Atlantic

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The Atlantic – April 11, 2019.  Kim Green, a neurobiologist at UC Irvine, notes mutant mice lacking microglia have broadly similar patterns of disorganization in their brains. These mice models essentially predicted what would happen in the human. He had just never expected to see a person without microglia. “It’s absolutely remarkable,” he says.

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Big IDEAS May Improve Clinical Management of Dementia

By Commentary, In the News

Contributed by S. Ahmad Sajjadi, MD, PhD, Neurologist Last week, the results of a very important and highly anticipated study, the IDEAS (Imaging Dementia – Evidence For Amyloid Scanning) study, were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). This national multi-center study, including UC Irvine, enrolled more than 11,000 Medicare beneficiaries with cognitive impairment to undergo a special type of scan called amyloid positron emission tomography (PET). Amyloid PET scan provides the opportunity to visualize the accumulation of abnormal amyloid plaques on the brain. Amyloid and tau proteins are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The study…

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Dr. Joshua Grill Discusses ‘Pseudomedicine’ with AARP

By Carousel Slider, Commentary, In the News

AARP – April 10, 2019. “A common situation is an older adult becoming concerned about their memory and taking a supplement to try to ward off dementia,” says Joshua Grill, director of the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders at the University of California, Irvine. “But in reality, if they saw their doctor, they might find out that another medical condition such as hypothyroidism, or a certain prescription medication, is causing symptoms and can be easily treated. They’re just making things worse.” And if you do have dementia, he adds, you could start a drug treatment to relieve symptoms,…

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Today is World Down Syndrome Day!

By Commentary

Did you know that people with Down syndrome are at significantly increased risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease? UCI MIND researchers, like Ira Lott, MD, Eric Doran, MS, Elizabeth Head, PhD, and Jorge Busciglio, PhD aim to better understand this critical link to improve quality of life and bring us closer to improved treatments and prevention for all people impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. To learn more about the UCI MIND Down Syndrome Program, click here > To read a recent interview with Down Syndrome Program manager, Eric Doran, click here >. In this post, Eric discusses the creation of a new…

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Phase 3 Trials of Aducanumab Halted

By Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Joshua Grill, PhD, Director of UCI MIND The global research effort to find effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease has suffered another disappointing setback. Biogen announced today that the company will halt the parallel large Phase 3 trials of the monoclonal antibody against the amyloid beta protein, aducanumab. This treatment was viewed by many to hold tremendous promise. Early results were unprecedented. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease who were treated with aducanumab showed significant reduction in amyloid burden in the brain, which appeared to slow disease progression. The results were based on a small number of participants, however, and were not…

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Participants are needed for a new Alzheimer’s disease clinical trial at UC Irvine and UCLA.

By Commentary

People ages 50 and older who have memory problems are needed for a new clinical trial for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s disease at the University of California, Los Angeles and University of California, Irvine. The NEAT study is a clinical trial sponsored by the University of California “Cures for Alzheimer’s Initiative,” testing whether nicotinamide, a component of vitamin B3, can slow Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, the 12-month study is investigating if a high daily dose of nicotinamide can affect the brain tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The study also measures whether nicotinamide is effective in improving memory and other thinking…

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Forgetful Yet Unforgettable: The Legacy of an Alzheimer’s Patient

By Commentary, In the News

In an interview with UCI undergraduate students, Chelsea Cox, Associate Director of Eduction for UCI MIND, shares her personal journey with Alzheimer’s disease, her perspective on care and research, and how people – young and old – can get involved in the cause. “…No one should have to spend their final days that way. This experience is what motivated me to get involved in Alzheimer’s research and education. So that hopefully, one day, other people don’t have to go through what my family went through.” Read the full interview on Medium >

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FDA issues warning to dietary supplements making unproven claims

By Commentary, In the News

On February 11, the FDA issued a statement and 12 warning letters related to an aggressive change in the agency’s regulation of dietary supplements. The statement was outlined in the New York Times. The main objective of the new approach is enhanced protection of consumers from mislabeled and unproven claims about treatment of disease. At the core of the problem are a number of companies that specifically target people with Alzheimer’s disease and people who are concerned about developing Alzheimer’s disease. A list of the companies receiving warning letters, as well as links to the letters, can be found here.

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The Rise of Pseudomedicine for Dementia and Brain Health

By Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Joshua Grill, PhD, Director of UCI MIND Colleagues at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center published a timely critique in JAMA on a concerning and increasing practice in the United States. “Pseudomedicine” is a practice whereby qualified healthcare professionals prescribe supplements or other therapies that are not covered by insurance, and therefore require cash payments, for personal financial gain. Pseudomedicine is especially problematic among older patients and family members concerned about memory loss and desperate for effective therapies to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Other examples of pseudomedicine include recommendations for brain healthy diet plans…

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Washington Post article highlights need for Latino representation in Alzheimer’s clinical studies (Written in English & Spanish)

By Commentary

Washington Post article highlights need for Latino representation in Alzheimer’s clinical studies Contributed by Christian Salazar, PhD, UCI MIND Associate Project Scientist A rare form of Alzheimer’s disease, caused by a gene mutation first discovered among people living in Jalisco, Mexico, develops at much earlier age than typical cases of Alzheimer’s disease. Andres Martin, a 31-year old Marine, has this ‘Jalisco mutation’, and is committed to raising awareness that the fight against Alzheimer’s disease does not only impact older adults. He’s especially motivated to protect those like his daughter, Alexis, a 2-year old who has a 50% chance of inheriting…

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Critical need for diversity in Alzheimer’s disease research

By Commentary, In the News

Contributed by Joshua Grill, PhD, Director of UCI MIND In a new study, colleagues at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University have found that levels of the cerebrospinal fluid protein tau, one of the hallmark pathologies in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is lower in African Americans compared to Whites. This was true both for older participants who did and did not have memory problems. The study is not the first to find such differences between African Americans and Caucasians and it has important implications to a number of important areas of AD research. First, there is a growing movement…

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Dr. Joshua Grill discusses A4 Study results in Alzforum

By Carousel Slider, Commentary, In the News

This week Alzforum posted coverage from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, including UCI MIND Director Dr. Joshua Grill’s presentation of data from The A4 Study (Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s Disease Study). In The A4 Study, a secondary prevention trial of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, people with elevated amyloid had higher levels of memory complaints than those without elevated amyloid. To read the full article, click here > 

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The impact on everybody else, it’s enormous

By Commentary

Contributed by Joshua Grill, PhD This week’s 60 Minutes did an excellent job of illustrating, in 13 minutes, the 10-year progression of Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on patients and their caregivers. In addition to the unrelenting progression of the disease, the piece showed viewers the toll the disease takes on care providers, including the physical, financial, and emotional burdens. On average, the cost of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to exceed $300,000 total. And caregivers are at increased risk for physical and mental ailments, resulting from the stress of their role and the fact that…

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New York Times article breaks down barriers to recruitment and brings hope with a new trial

By Commentary, In the News

The New York Times recently covered a new clinical trial effort Eli Lilly is undertaking, the TRAILBLAZER-ALZ clinical research study. The study, which UCI MIND investigators are participating in, aims to enroll 375 people with early Alzheimer’s disease. To learn more about the TRAILBLAZER-ALZ study, click here, or contact us at research@mind.uci.edu or call 949.824.0008.

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UCI Researchers awarded grant to explore gender differences in Alzheimer’s

By Commentary, In the News

Currently, 2 out of every 3 people with Alzheimer’s disease are women. Last year, UCI MIND began a partnership with Maria Shriver’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. This partnership launched a grant competition focused on understanding the role of sex in Alzheimer’s disease. UCI researchers Sunil Gandhi and Mathew Blurton-Jones have been awarded this year’s $100,000 grant. Their research will focus on the role of microglia in the brains of men and women using induced pluripotent stem cells generated from skin cells donated by UCI ADRC participants, modern mouse models of the disease, and cutting edge microscopy techniques. To learn more >

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We’re happy to hear good news, but we still need to see the data

By Commentary, In the News

This week, BioArctic Neuroscience, Esai, and Biogen made headlines when they announced via press release the topline and positive results of their Phase 2a study of the anti-amyloid antibody BAN2401. The press release indicated that the drug “demonstrated statistically significant slowing in clinical decline and reduction of amyloid beta accumulated in the brain” in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease. To be sure, this is welcomed news. Too often headlines for Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials are about “flops” and “failures.” So we should take this good news and embrace it. Unfortunately, there remain many questions to which we need answers before we…

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