ASPIRIN USE MAY PROTECT AGAINST ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
An aspirin a day may help keep Alzheimer’s away. A regimen of low-dose aspirin potentially may reduce plaques in the brain, which will reduce Alzheimer’s disease risk and protect memory, according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center in the United States. They have just published a study in the Journal of Neuroscience suggesting that regular aspirin use may have significant brain benefits.
“The results of our study identify a possible new role for one of the most widely used, common, over-the-counter medications in the world,” said study senior author Kalipada Pahan, PhD, who is a professor of neurological sciences, biochemistry and pharmacology at Rush Medical College in Chicago.
Alzheimer’s disease affects up to one in 10 Americans aged 65 or older. To date, the FDA has approved very few treatments of Alzheimer’s disease-related dementia and the medications that exist only provide limited symptomatic relief. The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease progression is unknown. However, poor disposal of the toxic protein amyloid beta in the brain is a leading mechanism in dementia and memory loss. Activating the cellular machinery responsible for removing waste from the brain has emerged as a promising strategy for slowing Alzheimer’s disease.
Amyloid beta forms clumps called amyloid plaques, which harm connections between nerve cells and are one of the major signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Pahan and his colleagues were able to show that aspirin decreases amyloid plaque formation in mice by stimulating lysosomes, which are components that help clear cellular debris. “Understanding how plaques are cleared is important to developing effective drugs that stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Pahan. A protein called TFEB is considered the master regulator of waste removal. The researchers gave aspirin orally for a month to genetically modified mice with Alzheimer’s pathology, then evaluated the amount of amyloid plaque in the parts of the brain affected most by Alzheimer’s disease. They found that the aspirin medications augmented TFEB, stimulated lysosomes and decreased amyloid plaque pathology in the mice.
“This research study adds another potential benefit to aspirin’s already established uses for pain relief and for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases,” said Pahan. “More research needs to be completed, but the findings of our study have major potential implications for the therapeutic use of aspirin in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses.”
SWALLOWED SENSOR CAN TELL IF YOU ARE SICK
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created an ingestible sensor to non invasively monitor indicators of disease in the stomach and intestines. The capsule carries genetically engineered bacteria that sense specific substances in the gut. The other components built into the one-and-a-half-inch capsule include phototransistors, a custom-integrated circuit, a small battery and a radio transmitter.
This is the first demonstration of the technology, and it uses bacteria that were genetically engineered to sense blood in the gut. If there is blood present, the bacteria will glow. The phototransistor detects the glow, triggering the radio transmitter to send a signal to a computer or smartphone, reporting that blood has been detected.
The test was done in pigs, which were first fed a dilute solution containing traces of blood. The sensor successfully sensed and reported by radio signal that there was blood in the stomach of the pig. “This first test for sensing bleeding from an ulcer shows the potential for this type of device to be used to avoid invasive procedures, such as endoscopy,” said senor author Dr. Timothy K. Lu, who is an associate professor of biological engineering and electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. “Following ingestion of the capsule, physicians would know within minutes if there was bleeding and could initiate treatment.”
One goal of the research for this American team is to reduce the size of the device, so it is easier to swallow. In addition, the research team is expanding this platform to use bacteria that have been genetically engineered to sense a sulphur compound, an indicator of Crohn’s disease. The researchers also are investigating a molecule called AHL, which would indicate the presence of gastrointestinal infections.
Medical Minutes by John Schieszer
John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.
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