Tag Archives: Dr Ian McDonald

Research and news: June 2015

Slide6This weekly blog is late, due to time constraints caused by travels of the editor, and various other issues taking precedence which I will write about very soon. Please accept our (my) apologies.

However, there are a couple of interesting research reports I felt would be of interest to members this week, and a recently released ADI newsletter, the first one that DAI has a full page in as a regular feature.

Global Perspective Newsletter June 2015

Firstly, the Alzheimer’s Disease International Global Perspective Newsletter is out, with the first full page insert of news by Dementia Alliance International.

You can download the full newsletter here:  ADI Global Perspective Newsletter June 2015. DAI is featured on page 7.

Younger Onset Alzheimer’s disease

Reported on 28 May 2015¬†by Dr Ian McDonald in Dementia News, currently the Science Communicator¬†at Alzheimer’s Australia, is another interesting research report:¬†Younger Onset Alzheimer‚Äôs disease ‚Äď new research reiterates it is not just about memory loss.

It is common to associate a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease with memory loss and while this is the case for many, new research has suggested that younger people (i.e. less than 65) with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease will more commonly have problems associated with judgement, language and/or visual and spatial awareness, rather than memory loss.

This result was published in the Journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia and suggests a need for a greater awareness of the different symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. This is something that Alzheimer’s Australia and other dementia advocacy groups around the world are committed to doing.

The study, which was undertaken in the UK and led by researchers from the University College London, analysed data from 7815 people in the¬†US National Alzheimer Coordinating Centre database. Each participant had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and a record had been made of the symptoms they had first noticed in the early stages of the disease. The average age of the group was 75, with the youngest person aged 36 and the oldest aged 110.

The results found that younger people with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease more commonly displayed non-memory cognitive impairments (i.e. judgement, language, etc.), however the results also showed that the odds of depression and behavioural symptoms also increased with younger age. In comparison the odds of having psychosis (confused thinking) but no behavioural symptoms increased with older age.

Source: Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia News

ADI Report: Women and Dementia

ADI have also published an important report, Women and Dementia, with the purpose of this report is to understand the main issues affecting women in relation to dementia from an international perspective. The report examines the effect of gender on three specific groups: women living with dementia; women caring for people with dementia in a professional caring role; women undertaking an informal caregiving role for someone with dementia.

Key findings

Across all regions of the world, dementia disproportionately affects women.

More women live with dementia than men. The prevalence is higher for women than for men; women are more at risk of developing dementia and the symptoms they live with are more severe.

Women provide a substantial proportion of informal care to people with dementia, with around two thirds of primary caregivers overall being women.

This figure is significantly higher in LMICs, areas which will account for 71% of the global prevalence of dementia by 2050.

The formal care workforce is predominantly female, providing the majority of health and social care in the community as well as in hospitals and care homes.

There is currently very little research focusing on the gender issues of living with, or caring for, someone with dementia and on the long-term impact of dementia on women as family and formal caregivers.


The report recommends that:

All countries need to understand the current and predicted prevalence and acknowledge that dementia disproportionately affects women. Accordingly, policy makers should review what support is currently available and what is required to meet future needs.

There is also a need for skilled care competencies for health and care staff and professionals working with people living with dementia with complex needs and co-morbidities.

In all regions people should be able to access appropriate information and support in place, enabling women across the world to continue to provide care, and to feel cared for themselves.

Source: Alzheimer’s Disease International

Read the full ADI report Women and Dementia-Full report or the summary Women-and-Dementia-Summary-Sheet

Dementia Research Wrap Up #4

Slide4Our latest Dementia Alliance International Dementia Research Wrap Up #4  for April 2015, generously provided and written by Dr Ian McDonald.

Thank you Ian.

Over the past few weeks there have been a few advances in relation to treating the pathological signs of dementia (in the brain). This means trying to get rid of those toxic proteins which cause brain cells to die and memory loss and other dementia related symptoms to occur. While this news is always exciting to hear, most of this research being reported on is in its earliest stages and some of the trials are yet to move from animal testing. So while small steps are being made, a long road is still ahead. I’ll give you a brief overview of three of these new trials recently reported on.

Research out of Australia has shown that an ultrasound scanning technique can reduce and remove amyloid beta plaques from the brains of MICE with Alzheimer’s disease. The results, published in the Journal Science Translational Medicine, showed that applying the ultrasound technique on mice with Alzheimer’s disease removed amyloid beta plaques from the brain, and in some cases, cleared the plaques completely. Treated mice were also found to perform better on a variety of memory tests, indicating that it may also reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Another lot of Australian research has provided evidence towards an infrared light therapy being able to treat Alzheimer’s disease. In this mouse study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s research and therapy, daily infrared light therapy was able remove and reduce the levels of toxic proteins and plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

So while both of these approaches have been able to break up the plaques which are considered responsible for Alzheimer‚Äôs disease onset ‚Äď so far the results have only been seen in mice. The skulls of mice are much thinner than those of humans and thus the approach would need considerable modifications before clinical trials can be undertaken in humans. We‚Äôll certainly keep posted to see how this research progresses.

Moving along a bit further, results were also recently released by a pharmaceutical company called Biogen showing that a drug called Aducanumab has had promising results as an Alzheimer’s disease treatment during a Phase 1b clinical trial.

So what is a Phase 1b study? They are intended to demonstrate ‚Äėproof of concept‚Äô and confirm a hypothesis, while also evaluating the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of the experimental treatment. If the results are promising, the researchers will then move into larger trials and longer term trials, known as Phase 2 and 3.

In this their analysis of the results, the researchers found that this drug was able to reduce amyloid plaque levels, and in turn slow down cognitive decline in a small number of people with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. So with these results, the researchers will now move into larger and longer term phase 2 and 3 trials and assess further if any side effects might occur as a result of taking this treatment.

So while it can always be exciting to hear about an Alzheimer’s disease breakthrough it is important to delve further into the results and see exactly what they say. I would also recommend anyone wanting to participate in a research clinical trial to have a read of some information on our website around what’s involved when participating in a research trial Рhttp://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/whats-involved-participating

To read about these studies in full have a look through our blog here – http://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/blog

Research wrap-up #1

Slide1Late last year I asked a favour of a younger colleague and now friend, Dr Ian McDonald if he would consider writing a monthly blog with a precis of the latest in research for our Dementia Alliance International blog.

Luckily for DAI, he has not only agreed to do this for us, but is donating his time and expertise to our organisation.

Dr McDonald works for Alzheimer’s Australia based in the national office in Canberra, write his own science blog, and also hase a radio program. Thank you Ian, and our very sincere appreciation for your assistance and considerable generosity and research expertise.

January 1st 2015: dementia research wrap-up

By: Dr Ian McDonald, Science Communicator, Alzheimer’s Australia

Hi all, Kate Swaffer asked me to write a regular column for the Dementia Alliance International blog which gives a short monthly wrap-up of what is happening in the dementia research sector. So here is my first edition for January 2015 ‚Äď Enjoy!

A recent report released by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee suggests that drinking 2-3 cups of coffee each day can reduce your risk of dementia by up to 20%. While this research attracted a considerable amount of media attention, evidence supporting this claim isn’t conclusive. In fact, the last sentence of the report reads:

‚ÄúEpidemiological studies have suggested that there may be an association between moderate coffee consumption and a reduced risk of developed Alzheimer‚Äôs, however further research is required to fully understand the nature of this relationship.‚ÄĚ

So I’ll leave that one with you to ponder. While consumption of coffee itself is unlikely to do harm, per se, it is important to note that there is also a growing body of evidence which highlights the risks of dementia associated with coffee drinking, including high sugar intake and lack of sleep.

Another intriguing study has suggested that ‚Äėshort people‚Äô have a higher risk of dementia over ‚Äėtall people‚Äô. This interesting claim was predominately based on the fact that shorter people have a lower production of growth hormones, which are believed to play an important role in brain function. Another study has suggested that adult asthma is linked to dementia onset. This claim was related to a condition known as ‚Äėchronic hypoxia‚Äô (where key organs are deprived of oxygen). The researchers suggest that those people with chronic hypoxia, can have abnormal synthesis of neurotransmitters, brain inflammation and blood-brain barrier dysfunction, resulting in brain cells not functioning properly

Finally to keep on the theme of dementia risk reduction, an Australian review article recently looked at whether computerised brain-training can decrease your risk of dementia and improve brain function. After reviewing 51 trials that involved over 5000 participants, they concluded that ‚Äėcomputerised brain-training‚Äô is only modestly effective at improving cognitive performance in healthy older adults. Australian researchers are now currently conducting more research in this area.

I look forward to digesting the latest dementia research with you, and encourage anyone who might be interested in finding out more to sign up to receive updates of my regular blog at http://www.dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/dementia-news and/or read the articles in full.

Dr lan McDonald is the Research Communications and Engagement Coordinator for Alzheimer‚Äôs Australia. One of his major roles includes writing and sourcing content for a fortnightly newsletter called ‚ÄėDementia News‚Äô which sets out to explain and discuss the latest dementia research. He also produces a fortnightly podcast talking with researchers and community supporters in the field of dementia. His blog and podcast can be found at www.dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au. Another aspect of his role is to promote the work of the Alzheimer‚Äôs Australia Dementia Research Foundation, which is the research arm of Alzheimer‚Äôs Australia and provides support and grants to early career researchers in the field of dementia.

 Prior to working for Alzheimer’s Australia, Dr McDonald has worked at the CSIRO and the Australian National University in administration, communication and education roles. In 2012, he was awarded a PhD through the University of Queensland in the field of reproductive immunology. Dr McDonald is also a prominent member of the Australian Science Communicators, being on both national and local committees and also presents on a science show most Sunday mornings called Fuzzy Logic

Editor: Kate Swaffer
Copyright: Dementia Alliance International and Dr Ian McDonald 2015