Sleep Disorders as Prologue to Disease: From the Archives

What a (incremental) difference seven years make. In 2009, when we wrote about Dana Alliance member David Holtzman’s work, the headline was “Could Sleep Disorders Contribute to Alzheimer’s?” This month, Scientific American describes the work he and colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are doing using the headline “Why Sleep Disorders May Precede Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.” We’ve gone from “maybe take a look” to “what’s the mechanism” on evidence for a link between sleep troubles and risk for neurodegenerative disorders has come.

Scientific American’s Simon Makin calls the Holtzman lab’s 2009 discovery the “best evidence for a causal relationship” From our story:

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Free Staying Sharp Program in Kansas City

Are you going to be in the Kansas City metro area this weekend? If so, please join us Saturday morning, June 13, for our free Staying Sharp forum. The program includes a panel discussion from 10 am to 12 pm with Anne Arthur, ARNP, BC; Jeffrey Burns, MD, MS; and Russell H. Swerdlow, MD from the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center, as well as Anne L. Foundas, MD, MS, Professor and Chair of the Neurology and Cognitive Neuroscience department at the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Medicine. They will discuss the latest information on the aging brain, memory, Alzheimer’s disease, brain health, and more. For the last thirty minutes, they will take your questions as part of the Q&A.

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Free Staying Sharp Program Saturday in Suffolk County Long Island

If you plan on being out in Long Island this weekend, please join us Saturday morning, June 8, for our free Staying Sharp forum. The program includes a panel discussion from 10 am to 12 pm with Dana Alliance members Dennis Choi, MD, PhD, and Patricia K. Coyle, MD, both from the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. They will discuss the latest information on the aging brain, memory, Alzheimer’s disease, brain health, and more. For the last thirty minutes, they will take your questions as part of the Q&A.

Staying Sharp Background Image (2)This will all be happening at the Hilton Long Island, 598 Broad Hollow Road in Melville, NY. Reservations are highly recommended; space is limited and these forums fill up fast. Register now by calling 1-877-926-8300. For more information go to www.dana.org/stayingsharp or email stayingsharp@dana.org.

We hope to see you on Saturday!

– Simon Fischweicher

The How of Tau

The debate over whether the tau protein’s corruption is a cause or effect of the Alzheimer’s disease process is now all but over. In fact, its corruption seems to be a driver of disease not only in Alzheimer’s, but in more than half a dozen other tau-linked maladies.

The Dana Foundation’s latest briefing paper, “The How of Tau,” looks at how tau dysfunction kills and how scientists are working to stop it.

Since the early 1990s, autopsy studies have found that the spread of tau NFTs [neurofibrillary tangles and threads] through memory-related brain areas tracks the progress of Alzheimer’s dementia—and does so better than the spread of Aβ [amyloid beta] plaques. About fifteen years ago scientists also linked a familial form of the dementia syndrome known as frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism to a set of tau mutations—whose effects turned out to be very similar to what is seen in Alzheimer’s. “Some of the mutations impair the binding of tau to microtubules, while others cause tau to aggregate more readily,” says John Q. Trojanowski, [M.D., Ph.D., a Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives member who co-directs the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at the University of Pennsylvania.]

Throughout the 2000s, scientists found more and more evidence that tau dysfunction kills and Aβ doesn’t—or rather that Aβ contributes to Alzheimer’s only indirectly, by causing tau dysfunction. The more conclusive findings have come only in the past few years. In 2011, for example, researchers in the Harvard Medical School laboratory of Dennis Selkoe, M.D. (also a Dana Alliance member) reported that small aggregates (“oligomers”) of Aβ, isolated from Alzheimer’s brains, triggered the hyperphosphorylation of tau as well as Alzheimer’s-like changes in neurons, including the loss of synapses, even at very low concentrations. This toxic effect was tau-dependent: no tau, no toxicity.

Read the full paper here.

–Ann L. Whitman

Free Staying Sharp Program Saturday in Mount Vernon

If you’ll be in Westchester County, NY, this weekend, please join us on Saturday, May 4 for a free Staying Sharp forum. The program includes a panel discussion from 9 am to 11 am with DABI member Patrick A. Griffth, M.D., FAAN, from Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and three other neuroscientists: Desiree Byrd, Ph.D, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Christopher Edwards, Ph.D., from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC and last but not least, André A. Fenton, Ph.D., from New York University Center for Neural Science. They will be discussing the latest information on the aging brain, memory, Alzheimer’s disease, brain health and more, with a particular focus on issues that affect the African American and black communities. For the last 30 minutes the experts will take questions from the audience.

This will all be happening at the Grace Baptist Church at 52 South Sixth Avenue in Mount Vernon. Reservations are highly recommended as space is limited and these forums fill up fast. To reserve your spot register now by calling 1-8777-926-8300. For more information go to www.dana.org/stayingsharp or email stayingsharp@dana.org. We hope to see you on Saturday!

– Simon Fischweicher

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