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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Alzheimer's in a petri dish: 01/11/2016

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health — a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM — that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

A new tool, called 'Alzheimer's in a dish,' may help researchers better understand Alzheimer's disease as well as some of the changes that occur within the brain of adults with dementia, reports a story recently published in Smithsonian.

The article explains 'Alzheimer's in a dish' is a new technique that enables colonies of genetically manipulated human brain cells to grow in a petri dish, which can be seen via 3D images. The article notes after a few days the cells begin to display some of the telltale brain plaques and tangles often found in adults with Alzheimer's Disease.

To backup, the growth of brain plaques (known as amyloid-beta) and tiny tangles are theorized to be associated with the development and progression of Alzheimer's Disease.

Although brain plaques and tangles are hypothesized to arise in Alzheimer's patients, the clinical ability to see plaques and tangles previously occurred when the brain was assessed via an autopsy. In addition, the ability to assess post-mortem brain plaques and tangles yielded limited insights into how they developed and spread.

However, via the new techniques developed by colleagues at Harvard Medical School, the Smithsonian article explains scientists now can see some of Alzheimer's Disease's clinical features and watch it progress.

As a result, the article explains the capability to model and watch the growth of brain plaques and tiny tangles overcomes one of the core problems to understand Alzheimer's disease and potentially adds significantly to future Alzheimer's research.

The Smithsonian article adds a new tool to understand Alzheimer's could not be better timed. About five million Americans currently are diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and the number of Alzheimer's patients is expected to quadruple within the next 30 years.

MedlinePlus.gov's Alzheimer's Disease health topic page explains Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia in adults.

The Smithsonian article adds the current, estimated costs to care for dementia patients in the U.S. are about $225 billion annually. This cost is estimated to be around $1 trillion annually by 2050.

As a former chief of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital tells Smithsonian (and we quote); 'if we don't do something about this (Alzheimer's Disease), its going to cripple us' (end of quote).

Meanwhile, some basic information about Alzheimer's Disease biomarkers (such as amyloid-beta) is provided by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry within the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's Alzheimer's Disease health topic page. You can find some helpful, background information about Alzheimer's Disease (provided by the National Institute on Aging) within the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's Alzheimer's Disease health topic page.

The Alzheimer's Association introduces the ten early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease within the 'diagnosis/symptoms' section of MedlinePlus.gov's Alzheimer's Disease health topic page. The National Institute on Aging also provides information about the prevention of Alzheimer's Disease within the 'treatments and therapies' section of MedlinePlus.gov's Alzheimer's Disease health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov's Alzheimer's Disease health topic page additionally provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section. You also can sign up to receive updates about Alzheimer's Disease as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's Alzheimer's Disease health topic page, please type 'Alzheimer's Disease' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'Alzheimer's Disease (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also has a health topic page on dementia.

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

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Please join us here next week and here's to your health!