Shark Week, Promising Alzheimer’s Updates (Abstract Science: July 23 - 27)
What’s right and wrong with Shark Week, updates from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference including a new antibody drug that shows hints of promise, and how the liver plays a role in identifying ALS.
(Washington Post, 7/24/2018, David Shiffman)
Who knew that 30 years ago, the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week would turn into an international phenomenon. It’s the longest-running series on cable, and that longevity has given it a prime role in pop culture and public understanding of shark science. But its legacy is a mixed bag. David Shiffman is a shark conservation biologist and shares his thoughts about the series’ good, bad and sometimes ugly influence.
(Science, 7/26/2018, Kelly Servick)
The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) held its annual meeting in Chicago this week. One of the biggest stories to come out of AAIC was an update on an experimental drug called BAN2401. Biogen Inc. and Eisai Co. Ltd suggested that BAN2401 might slow the pace of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients, and reverse the buildup of a brain protein thought to drive the disease’s neurodegeneration. Like several other Alzheimer’s drugs under development, BAN2401 targets β-amyloid, the protein fragment that forms sticky plaques around neurons. In a Phase II trial, the drug failed to show the level of benefit that its developers set as the study’s endpoint, but the companies presented a series of other analyses in a smaller subset of patients from the same trial that that used a different statistical tool and a more innovative study design.
(Medical News Today, 7/26/2018, Maria Cohut)
Specialists have been hard at work trying to identify the most salient risk factors in Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers led by Dr. Mitchel A. Kling, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia observed that Alzheimer's disease risk is associated with reduced levels of plasmalogens, a type of phospholipid produced in the liver. They play key roles in maintaining the health of brain cells. From the liver, plasmalogens are carried to the brain and other organs through the blood. Levels of these phospholipids can be measured through specialized tests that have been devised by Dr. Kling in collaboration with colleagues from the Alzheimer's Disease Metabolomics Consortium at Duke University in Durham, NC. The researchers identified three indices — assessing the ratios of different plasmalogens to each other, the ratios of plasmalogens to other lipids, and a combination of these measurements — that allow them to determine the amount of plasmalogen as it relates to cognitive functioning.
—Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola