A fix for Alzheimer’s? What’s that? A fix for Alzheimer’s? What’s that?

Researchers have long believed that amyloid plaques either cause Alzheimer’s or are a key factor, and a lot of money has gone into researching drugs that reduce the prevalence of these plaques. So it’s a great cause for celebration that bapineuzumab, a drug now being developed by Elan Corp. and now owned by Johnson & Johnson, showed an ability to reduce amyloid plaques in 28 patients. At the end of the 18-month study period, the patients had 25 percent less amyloid plaques than a control group. And the bapineuzumab patients actually had less plaques than they had at the start of testing.

But like most all good things, there’s a bit of a catch. Actually, there are two catches here. The first is that bapineuzumab can have dangerous side effects — high doses can have ill effects, as earlier tests found, and two patients in the current study had cerebral edemas caused by water on the brain. But it sounds like the side-effects are manageable, and it may be just a matter of finding the right dosage.

The bigger catch is, we still don’t know if amyloid plaques are a cause or merely a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. A large and growing number of researchers believe the true cause of Alzheimer’s is the tangles of tau proteins that also accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers.

In any case, whether bapineuzumab turns out to be a wonder drug, or a dead end, the real breakthrough here is the development of a method of assessing a patient’s number of amyloid plaques, something we could only do after death, via autopsy, until now. Now, we can only hope that we don’t need to repeat the same research multiple times over.

Yet another example of good science

Let’s be honest. Would you rather not remember last night, or not remember most of your life in your final years?

Pick up a drink. Do it right now. Because science tells us that alcohol may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Also, it reduces the risk of dementia, which sounds like the old-timey term for Alzheimer’s, but for argument’s sake, we’ll say that they are two different afflictions. The point is, booze can save your brain.

The study followed over 3,000 senior citizens who drank moderately. They defined that as 14 drinks per week. However, if you have 14 drinks per night you just might be able to fight dementia and kill it before it even things about coming after you. So drink early, drink often.

Don’t let Alzheimer’s dampen the holidays!

As the holidays that don’t involve bobbing for little bottles of liquor approach, those of you with elderly relatives may encounter some memory loss (that, once again, doesn’t involve little bottles of liquor).

While Alzheimer’s means that your mom or dad might not recognize you, that doesn’t mean they want to be bored with the same old reintroductions to their bastard grandchildren. Give them the life they’ve always wanted — you know, before you were born.

1) Total Recall: “What do you mean you want to go to Mars,Grandpa? Mars is terrible. How about a nice tour of the rings of Saturn?” Then have your mom try to kill him with a cooking knife. The fun starts when Grandpa’s WWII training kicks in.

2) The Bobby Darin Story: Convince your grandmother that she is your mother and that your mother is actually your sister. Bonus points if you don’t tell your mom whats going on.

3) Clue: It’s murder! And your Aunt doesn’t remember killing the butler in the library with the rope … until you arrange the clues so they point to her.

4) The Alzheimer’s Game: Convince a suggestible older relative that they’ve entered the early stages of dementia by having the entire family reminisce about things that never happened. Will they catch on by Christmas? That’s the Alzheimer’s Game!