February 12, 2015

Defending & Repairing Brain Cells - Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton

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A number of factors put women at higher risk for Alzheimer’s, but some critical strategies can delay or prevent the onset of this disease.

On February’s Alzheimer’s Talks, we were joined by Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, R. Pete Vanderveen Chair in Therapeutic Discovery and Development and Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biomedical Engineering and Neurology at the University of Southern California, who has led groundbreaking research investigating the hormones and neurosteroids that defend and repair the brain’s cells. She was joined on the call by Dr. Howard Fillit, Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, which has funded some of Dr. Brinton’s research.


Here are some key highlights from the call:

  1. Age is still the number one risk. Age remains the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, helping explain why this disease disproportionately affects women, who live on average 4-5 years longer than men. But age alone does not explain the increased risk for women.
  2. Sooner rather than later. Identifying early symptoms and intervening at the earliest stage of Alzheimer’s development is critical to possibly delaying further advancement of the disease.
  3. Diet and exercise. Just like our bodies, our brains need the right food and exercise to thrive. Increasing movement throughout the day and reducing sugar consumption are two keys to maintaining good brain health. The ADDF’s website, Cognitive Vitality, shares evaluations of hundreds of prevention strategies.
  4. One size does not fit all. There are many different ways to develop Alzheimer’s and therefore no singular therapeutic cure will work for all. Instead, there’s exciting potential in many therapeutic drugs out there in the pipeline, ready to be tested.
  5. Clinical trials are recruiting. She discovered that the hormone allopregnanolone (Allo) generates new neurons in the brain and those new nerve cells can restore memory function and reduce the pathology of Alzheimer’s in the brain. This first ever regenerative therapeutic is currently being tested in clinical trials. 
  6. Researchers are ready for your help. Following decades of research and drug development, many therapeutic drugs are now being tested in clinical trial. The single best thing you can do is give researchers the opportunity to learn more from you. Participate in a clinical trial, or ask your physician if he or she is making your information available to Alzheimer’s researchers.

We’re grateful Dr. Brinton was able to share some of her findings on prevention strategies as well as her optimism regarding a possible treatment in the pipeline.