Age is the most important risk factor in developing Alzheimer’s

By 2050, the number of elderly individuals older than 80 years is projected to triple globally. This has been termed the “coming epidemic.” Ten years ago, research demonstrated that aged liver tissue exposed to young blood has greater regenerative capacity, and studies showed similar benefit in muscle tissue. These studies have been replicated several times but only in mice.

The hippocampus is a key brain structure in memory, and atrophy of that area of the brain is almost always seen in Alzheimer’s patients. The brain is protected by “the blood-brain barrier,” but an area in the hippocampus is closely associated with blood vessels and thus is exposed to systemic factors. Even though the effects of transfusing young blood into aged mice are strong, the aged brain so exposed shows much less regeneration than young rodents’ brain. Transfusing young blood leads to enhanced neurogenesis, meaning new nerve cells and synaptic plasticity, meaning more connections between nerve cells. Memory and other higher order cognitive functions can be measured and are improved.

There are many issues. Although blood plasma products are widely used in humans and considered relatively safe, the potential for cancer has not been studied.

Two studies have been started to examine improvement in symptoms in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease following the removal or addition of blood factors that impair or improve brain function. One study is named AMBAR (Alzheimer’s Management By Albumin Replacement) and the other PLASMA (PLasma for Alzheimer SymptoM Amelioration). All clinical trials are registered at the web site ClinicalTrials.gov. These 2 trials are numbered NCT01561053 and NCT02256306.

These research approaches sound too good to be true, but how lovely to contemplate the possibility that they may succeed.

See JAMA Neurology, October 2015, Castellano, PhD, et al.

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