Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Potential Breakthrough In Alzheimer's Research -- and What You Can Do Now
New research at MIT might be a game-changer for Alzheimer's. But you don't have to wait to strengthen your brain's memory system.
In an aging world the rampant destruction of families and emotions due to Alzheimer’s disease is increasing. Around the planet forty-seven million people are living with the disease at an annual cost of $236 billion (when other forms of dementia are factored in).
The estimated 5.4 million Americans suffering from this disease require 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care each year—an especially daunting reality during a time when Medicare and Social Security are under attack, as many other costs exist. By 2050 Alzheimer’s treatment and care is expected to top $1 trillion, bumping Medicare costs up by 360 percent.
Eli Lilly’s recent attempt at a cure has set the company back hundreds of millions of dollars and may result in thousands of layoffs. High hopes for its drug, solanezumab, were quashed after a recent failed late-stage clinical trial; the company’s stock has fallen 11.6 percent in the last two weeks.
Solanezumab targeted beta amyloid deposits in the brain. For the last twenty-five years researchers have speculated that deposits of the amyloid-β peptide “initiates a sequence of events that ultimately lead to AD dementia.” Thus far companies like Eli Lilly and Biogen have failed to produce potential remedies using this hypothesis.
This has not stopped research, however. Earlier this week neuroscience professor Li-Huei Tsai, who is also the director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, announced the results of a potentially game-changing early-stage trial.
In a forthcoming Nature article Tsai and her co-authors report LED lights flickering at a frequency that stimulates gamma oscillations at 40 hertz substantially reduces beta amyloid plaques in mice. Targeting the brain’s hippocampus, a critical region in memory formation and retention, researchers temporarily suppressed these proteins.
As with all such trials the researchers remain cautiously hopeful. Tsai says,
It’s a big ‘if,’ because so many things have been shown to work in mice, only to fail in humans. But if humans behave similarly to mice in response to this treatment, I would say the potential is just enormous, because it’s so noninvasive, and it’s so accessible.
Forty hertz is the typical gamma oscillation in human brains; these waves range from twenty-five to a hundred hertz. (Trials in Tsai’s lab at other levels were not effective.) Since 2009 researchers have been able to induce gamma waves in mice using optogenetics, a technique first dreamed up by Francis Crick in the late nineties that utilizes light in order to influence cellular activity in living tissues. It is now considered a breakthrough method for changing neuronal behavioral patterns.
Tsai and her team found that an hour of stimulation at forty hertz resulted in a 40-50 percent reduction in plaques while enhancing gamma oscillations. The proteins returned to their original levels within a day, leaving researchers to wonder if longer courses of treatment will more effectively, or even permanently, reduce protein growth.
While the rush for a cure continues, preventive measures are becoming increasingly important. Meditation has been shown to influence gamma activity, while listening to binaural beats might yield positive results.
Movement is among the most important facets of memory control and retention. One of exercise’s main benefits is neurogenesis, which includes the production of IGF-1 and BDNF, proteins that are protective against dementia. Keeping active significantly increases your brain’s hippocampal volume, resulting in improved memory.
One of our age’s most damaging effects is the outsourcing of memory that instant access to technology offers. Studies have shown using GPS reduces hippocampal volume; checking the internet for every question instead of thinking through ideas and seeking alternate means is another memory-draining habit that has become commonplace.
Perhaps most interestingly is the importance of cognitive variety, flexibility, and cultivating an ability to consider opposing beliefs. As with bones, our brains operate best when met with resistance. Social interactions and daydreaming are essential for memory retention as well. Engaging in creative pursuits and flow states are ways to strengthen your memory system, as are learning new languages and instruments—basically, anything that challenges your current skill set.
Turns out that light, a longtime metaphor for spiritual realization, is equally critical in brain health. We know the damaging effects of your device’s blue light and its role in the suppression of melatonin, which affects sleep cycles, which affects memory. This potential breakthrough at MIT might prove that a different shade reverses such effects. Fingers crossed, though in the meantime plenty of methods to strengthen your memories are available now.
Derek Beres is working on his new book, Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health (Carrel/Skyhorse, Spring 2017). He is based in Los Angeles. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively. The kinetic energy of the recoil was used to calculate the atom's mass. b, The value of the atom's mass was then combined with the known ratio of the atom's mass to the electron's mass to calculate the mass of an electron. This was used in connection to the binding energy of a hydrogen atom to determine the fine-structure constant.
Pfizer's vaccine needs to be kept at -100°F until it's administered. Can caregivers deliver?
- Fair distribution of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is especially challenging because they need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures.
- Back in 2018, the WHO reported that over half of all vaccines are wasted worldwide due to lack of cold storage, and they were only talking about vaccines that need to be chilled or kept at standard freezer temperatures.
- Real-time logistics data, location tracking, and information about movements are crucial to track shipment progress, product temperature and other conditions.
Cold chain logistics could make or break the magic bullet<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg2MTU3OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDM5MDY0OH0.fyg7n5tmvLPr3j0ZyZRLCUPPxLyKOHKuyip27uWpu9I/img.jpg?width=980" id="33fc2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa7232b11171da23dac492d27ffde7c2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Chilling truths for many sectors<p>Public health organizations can't afford to waste vaccines, but they also can't afford expensive storage solutions. Deep freezers that can store the vaccine at -80°F or lower are too expensive for rural hospitals, plus the U.S. is facing a shortage of such freezers, even as manufacturers are scrambling to speed up production and shipment carriers scramble to outfit their containers. </p> <p>"In this financial environment, you can imagine that there is simply no consideration of rural hospitals purchasing storage equipment for this ultra-cold distribution," <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/11/11/rural-hospitals-cant-afford-freezers-to-store-pfizer-covid19-vaccine/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">noted</a> National Rural Health Association CEO Alan Morgan.</p> <p>Back in 2018, the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/07/the-biggest-hurdle-to-universal-vaccination-might-just-be-a-fridge" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">WHO reported</a> that over half of all vaccines are wasted worldwide due to lack of cold storage, and they were only talking about vaccines that need to be chilled or kept at standard freezer temperatures. </p> <p>Few states in the U.S. are equipped to meet the cold chain challenge. Washington State's health department doesn't have a way to store Pfizer vaccine at a cold enough temperature. Many newer EU member states are in a similar position, along with much of South America, Africa, and Asia. States such as Arizona, North Dakota, and Oregon include large rural communities, tribal lands, and migrant communities, none of whom are easily reachable. </p> <p>If public health bodies are unable to store the vaccine for longer periods of time, the onus rests on cold chain logistics to deliver it within a shorter period of time.</p>
Improved logistics data can play a role<p>Shipping companies need the ability to transport vaccine batches swiftly, with transparent tracking, to their final destinations, if they're going to be trusted to supply rural and hard-to-reach areas.</p> <p>"Cold chain logistics isn't just a matter of profit and loss. It can mean the difference between life and death for communities and individuals who are relying on vaccines and pharma products to arrive in their original condition," explained Janne Juhala, CEO of Logmore, via email. A supply chain condition analytics company, Logmore <a href="https://venturebeat.com/2020/11/25/logmore-launches-first-logistics-monitor-designed-for-covid-19-vaccine-delivery/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">is launching</a> a new product, Logmore Dry Ice, to help efforts to protect the COVID-19 vaccine in transit. </p> <p>Real-time logistics data, location tracking, and information about movements are crucial to track shipment progress, product temperature and other conditions. For example, transport companies need to know if a shipment has been exposed to the sun, or get alerts to change the dry ice. </p> <p>Pharma companies require this data so they can <a href="https://www.pharmasalmanac.com/articles/anticipating-the-logistics-of-a-covid-19-vaccination-effort" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">quickly rescue delayed vaccine shipments</a> before they spoil, while accurate notifications that a shipment has been compromised enables public health authorities to rely on the integrity of the vaccine. </p>
The logistics industry is preparing for its biggest challenge<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg2MTU4MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODA5ODczOX0.XyuPVNRuQUuSdAHJ78rAVxu7indqel9q9qbfytO2Rxo/img.jpg?width=980" id="49614" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2656c4a329ec9435aae6d11427831e7e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Global cooperation is vital<p>Global planning and cooperation is vital to plan the timing of vaccine shipments, so that they are not ruined by air or land freight delays; ensure they aren't held up by needless paperwork in a transit country; and protect vaccines from being seized and redirected. </p> <p>"The partners have to collaborate," <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-vaccine-rollout-calls-for-supply-chain-collaboration-logistics-chief-says-11603713612" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said Detlef Trefzger</a>, CEO of global shipping concern Kuehne + Nagel. "If you don't… you might run into a capacity shortage or equipment shortage."</p> <p>TIACA and Pharma.aero called for air cargo stakeholders to collaborate to map storage capabilities and accelerate roll out of digital tracking and monitoring systems, and on governments, customs authorities, and border agencies to remove barriers to movement of COVID-19 vaccines. International organizations also need to work together to build cold chain capacity in developing countries. </p> <p>Logmore's Juhala echoed this sentiment. "Logistics companies can only take matters so far. With the COVID vaccine specifically, the world is relying on effective communication with government bodies and public health organizations," he said, "so having verifiable data about the conditions of each shipment adds a much-needed layer of accountability."</p>
When times get tough, the tough get going<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg2MTU4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODY2NjA1MX0.9Dc8d3nLCF6fBMetIkGKZle8SFLyDv76oUj8ZW-c-UA/img.jpg?width=980" id="ef3be" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ea587f91a0394c1624dd63b835885807" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Psychedelic therapy will become legal in Oregon in 2023. That's thanks largely to a renaissance of psychedelic research that's changing attitudes on the substances' medical potential.