Alzheimer’s Research — Connecting the Dots

September 9, 2010

RKP Comments on Recent Articles on Promising Research Results Relating to Alzheimer’s Disease

The first article is a press release from MIT on the research conducted by Dr. Guarente’s Lab.  Click here to read the article.  The second, an article posted on PLoS One, describes the effect of  rapamycin on AD progression.  Click here to read the article. 

The two pieces linked here bear on recent Alzheimer’s research, and coincidentally, say something about mainstream journalism’s medical reporting on diseases. 

In Dr. Leonard Guarente’s Lab at MIT, doctors, led by Gizem Donmez, have connected the activity of the SIRT1 gene with the inhibition of the peptides that create the Amyloid plaques (in mice) which give rise to Alzheimer’s.  SIRT1 appears to control production of these devastating plaques; it follows that drugs which stimulate SIRT1 may be valuable in delaying and mitigating the disease. 

The second article concerns rapamycin, an anti-rejection drug that targets the mTOR gene and which has also been found to extend the lifespan of middle aged mice.  Rapamycin has been proven to reduce Amyloid-B levels in mice, thus slowing or blocking AD progression in a mouse model. 

Rapamycin is also presently being used in Cancer Trials.

Compounds like resveratrol — which appears to influence the SIRT1 gene — may also impact the progression of Alzheimer’s. 

There are a couple of dots here which are worth connecting. 

Genes such as SIRT1 and mTOR have many metabolic impacts, which derive from their ability to heighten the individual cell’s repair mechanisms.  To draw the society metaphor, cells are the individuals, the organs and diseases are the larger societal structures.  But how individuals are doing will determine how well the larger structures work. 

Several years ago, while I was interviewing Dr. Guarente at MIT, he hypothesized that they would likely find that the SIRT1 gene — because it’s a regulator gene — plays a role in a wide range of diseases — Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease — precisely because this gene instructs a huge number of downstream individual cells all over the body to care of themselves, to heighten cell maintenance.  The result is that these genes impact many diseases. 

The mTOR gene influences intersecting metabolic processes that overlap with those of the SIRT1 gene.  It follows that both can influence the progression of Alzheimer’s. 

Two additional notes for now.  In a Huffington Post article (posted September 3rd), Jean Carper takes a New York Times article (dated August 28th) to task (click here to read the Huffington Post article).  The NY Times article, titled – “Years Later, No Magic Bullet for Alzheimer’s Disease” can be found here. Carper says that the piece seems not to be up to date, that “we should worry that the Gray Lady, now 159 years old, is slowing down”. 

She proceeds to give a stinging report of the article’s issues and how weakly these issues were discussed. 

I would suggest the problem with the NY Times article is one of methodology.  Dots aren’t connected.  Articles in the same newspaper by other reporters have pointed to this new and striking research highlighted above.  Somehow it was determined that this article would adopt a negative tone. Period.  At some point in the future, there will probably be another article that ignores the August 28th article. 

Indeed, the above 2010 research, appearing in peer reviewed journals (as well as in the NY Times), is not even mentioned in the Times article. What will the public know and therefore think?  I haven’t a clue. 

Finally, it is worth mentioning that rapamycin is very expensive and has gone through human trials for organ rejection; but seemingly diverse uses should not keep people from thinking of it as having a use against Alzheimer’s.  Resveratrol, which has exhibited neurological effects such as increased memory, has not yet been passed on by the FDA, but is available as a supplement.  Prevention in this case being worth several pounds of cure, people with Alzheimer’s in their family might consider a long term regimen of  resveratrol even as the studies — which could take 5 to 10 years — proceed. 

Robert Kane Pappas

DiggFacebookBlogger PostTwitterDeliciousMySpaceGoogle GmailShare

{ 1 trackback }

Practical Steps to Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
November 5, 2010 at 11:58 am

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: