Newsbriefs: Dementia Risk Factors; Yoga & Depression; AD Research; Zika Virus

FOCUSING ON NINE RISK FACTORS COULD ELIMINATE ONE-THIRD OF DEMENTIA CASES

Research analyzing a large number of studies on dementia suggests that zeroing in on just nine risk factors would prevent more than one-third of dementia cases worldwide. According to the study, which was published online July 19, 2017 in The Lancet, strategies to address the nine risk factors begin with staying in school until the age of 15 (which would reduce dementia cases by 8 percent). In midlife (ages 45 to 65), strategies include reducing hearing loss (which would result in 9 percent fewer cases), as well as reducing obesity and high blood pressure. In later life (65 and older) measures include reducing smoking (which would cut dementia cases by 5 percent), and addressing depression, physical inactivity, social isolation, and diabetes. “We believe that a broader approach to prevention of dementia which reflects these changing risk factors will benefit our aging societies and help to prevent the rising number of dementia cases globally,” the study’s lead author noted.

 RX FOR DEPRESSION: YOGA

A series of recent studies involving individuals with depression described at the August 2017 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association suggests that the practice of yoga may not only relax your body, but also lift your spirits. In one study, 23 veterans reported that two months of twice-weekly hatha yoga sessions, which involve meditation, breathing and physical movement, had led to significant improvement in their symptoms of depression. Other research involving 52 participants compared those who took part in twice-weekly sessions of Bikram (hot) yoga for two months to a similar group who did not take the classes. The yoga participants reported dramatically reduced symptoms of depression, while the non-yoga participants reported no change in mood. In a third study of adults who engaged in a similar schedule of Bikram yoga, participants reported not only a significant decrease in symptoms of depression, but also an increase in feelings of optimism, and improved functioning and quality of life. Researchers recommended that yoga be used as an adjunct to other forms of professional treatment for depression. “Clearly, yoga is not a cure-all,” one study author said. “However, based on empirical evidence, there seems to be a lot of potential.”

NEW ALZHEIMER’S RESEARCH EXPECTED TO BEAR FRUIT IN NEXT FIVE YEARS

The number of potential new Alzheimer’s disease (AD) therapies that are in the pipeline and/or nearing their completion suggests that breakthroughs in drugs and treatments may be just a few years away, according to a press release issued by the research group UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. It has been 14 years since a new treatment for AD has been approved in the United States or Europe. According to information provided by the group, as of July 18, 2017, a total of 27 therapies were in Phase 3 clinical trials, and eight were in Phase 2 clinical trials. The group reported that 23 of the experimental drugs target the brain buildup of toxic beta-amyloid proteins, a hallmark of AD. Others are focused on changing the activities of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which transmit messages among cells.

ZIKA VIRUS MAY BE USED AS A WEAPON AGAINST A DEADLY BRAIN TUMOR 

Scientists are experimenting with an innovative technique that uses the Zika virus to attack and destroy cells from a deadly brain cancer—and so far the results are promising. The scientists theorized that modified forms of the virus, which targets developing cells in the brain and can cause devestating brain damage in unborn children, might safely identify and kill stem cells associated with a type of cancer called glioblastoma. In humans with the brain cancer, the stem cells are resistant to existing treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. According to a report published Sept. 5, 2017 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, experimental use of the modified Zika virus in animals with fast-growing brain tumors has been successful, slowing tumor growth and significantly adding to the animals’ lifespan. The results are preliminary, and further testing is necessary before the procedure can be tried on human patients. However, the technique might one day help people with glioblastoma, who currently survive for only two years following their diagnosis with the cancer.

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