For quite some time we’ve been pondering upon memory care living and dementia care.
In July 2019, there was a flurry of excitement in the news media over the results of a recently completed study, published in the July issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, funded by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the National Institutes of Health, conducted at the Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago. They found that low-dose aspirin was effective in reducing the amount of amyloid plaques in the brains of mice genetically modified to have Alzheimer’s Disease. Amyloid plaques are the clumps of the sticky protein known as beta-amyloid that build up around neurons in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Of late, it has been suggested that one way to approach the problem of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients is to get rid of the amyloid plaques, and the best way would be to stimulate the brain’s cellular waste disposal system. A key element in this system is a type of organelle within the cell known as the lysosome. A study published in July 2017 uncovered a possible connection between lysosome activity and Alzheimer’s. It was found that a gene known as HYAL served as a protector against cell death caused by the amyloid plaques, and that this gene was less active in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The researchers suggested that the HYAL gene accomplished its protective role by boosting the operation of the lysosomes. Thus, the brains of Alzheimer’s patients would be characterized by a lower level of lysosomal activity.
Meanwhile, an earlier study, published in October 2016, had shown that a daily mild dose of aspirin given to patients with Type 2 diabetes could reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Based on these and other earlier studies, the research team at Rush designed a study to examine the connection between aspirin and lysosomal activity. The team found that aspirin boosted the activity of a protein known as TFEB (Transcription Factor EB). TFEB is the central element in the brain’s debris-clearing mechanism. TFEB increases the production of lysosomes, and thus increases the speed and quantity of waste removal in the brain. In the case of the genetically modified mice in the study, orally administered low-dose aspirin had the effect of preventing the build-up of the amyloid plaques by clearing away the amyloid particles before they had a chance to clump together.
Of course, more research will need to be done, using humans, before any definitive conclusions can be drawn. In addition, the use of aspirin on a regular basis is controversial, and the FDA issued a statement in 2014 cautioning against its regular use on account of the increased risk it poses of bleeding in the stomach and the brain. Still, there is hope that something fruitful may come out of the findings of this study, which would prove to be a boon for those in the areas of dementia care and memory care living.