Blood Test Could Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease
A biological test for Parkinson’s disease could some day replace the current symptom-based screen method of diagnosis, according to research published in Brain. The blood test, based on a patient’s me tabolomic profile, examines changes in dozens of small molecules. Researchers have found that some metabolomic alterations, specifically those associated with oxidative stress, were clearly linked to Parkinson’s disease. These changes included low levels of the antioxidant uric acid, an increase in blood levels of the antioxidant glutathione, and increased levels of a marker for oxidative damage called 8-OHdG.
The study was split into two parts. First, to establish a “medication-free” profile, researchers compared metabolomic patterns in the blood of patients with Parkinson’s disease who were not undergoing treatment with those who were. Next, researchers compared blood samples from 66 patients with Parkinson’s disease against 25 healthy individuals, most of whom were the patients’ spouses. The metabolomic analysis included more than 2,000 small molecules found in the blood. A pattern of approximately 160 compounds emerged that was highly specific to patients with Parkinson’s disease.
To expand on their findings, researchers are enlarging the sample and studying people at serial intervals to determine whether the test might also be used to monitor disease progression. They are also examining whether the metabolomic profile predicts disease onset by tracking people who have the Parkinson’s disease gene but do not have the illness.
Source.“First Early-Detection Blood Test for Parkinson’s Shows Promise.” (2008, March 12). Retrieved March 27, 2008, from http://www.news-medical.net/?id=36164.
Real or Robotic, Dogs Wag Away Loneliness
Animal-assisted therapy—whether from a live dog or a robot that acts like one—can help alleviate loneliness in nursing home residents, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.
Researchers compared how nursing home residents interacted with Sparky, a living, medium-sized gentle mutt, and Aibo, a robotic dog that looks like a three-dimensional cartoon. A total of 38 participants were asked to assess their level of loneliness and were divided into three groups: one that saw Sparky once per week for 30 minutes, one that had similar visits with Aibo, and a control group that had no contact with either. During the visits, Sparky or Aibo was placed in the resident’s room and interacted with residents by wagging their tails and responding to the people they visited.
After 7 weeks, all of the participants were asked questions about how lonely they felt and how attached they were to Sparky or Aibo. The residents who received visits from either dog felt less lonely and more attached to their canine companions than did those who did not have any dog contact. No statistical difference was found between the real and robotic dog in terms of easing loneliness and fostering attachments, leading the investigators to believe that robotic dogs may make good companions for older adults who cannot care for a living animal.
Source. “Faux Fido Eases Loneliness in Nursing Homes.” (2008, February 25). Retrieved February 29, 2008, from http://www.newswise.com/p/articles/view/538046/.
Wrong Drugs Less Likely with Geriatric Care
A study funded by the Veterans Administration Health Services Research and Development Service has found that older veterans who received care from a geriatrician were less likely to receive inappropriate prescriptions, compared with similar patients who had not received geriatric care.
In the study, published in Medical Care, researchers examined Veterans Administration (VA) pharmacy and patient care records to identify instances of inappropriate prescribing among 850,154 patients who received care at 124 VA facilities during 1999 and 2000. The results showed that, overall, 26.2% of elderly patients were given drugs identified as inappropriate or suboptimal for older patients. Patients who had received geriatric care (3%) had a better chance of receiving more appropriate dosages and kinds of medications.
The VA’s electronic medical record and prescribing system was cited as having a possible influence on geriatric care’s role in reducing inappropriate medication usage among older adults in the VA health care system.
Source.“Geriatric Care Associated with Safer Prescribing Among Elderly Vets.” (2008, January 17). Retrieved January 25, 2008, from http://www.newswise.com/p/articles/view/537005/.
All Eyes on Visual Acuity Program
Long-term care insurance companies are looking at the benefits of bird watching, deep sea diving, gardening, driving, and artifact collecting—all exercises featured in InSight™, a new computer program designed to enhance the performance of the brain’s visual processing system. The brain fitness training program, developed by Posit Science® Corporation.
The efficacy of InSight’s UFOV® (useful field of view) technology has been documented in several published, peer-reviewed studies, including recent publications from the National Institutes of Health-funded ACTIVE Study, which has been tracking the performance of more than 2,800 older adults for more than 5 years. Such research has shown that 5 years after training, people are approximately 35% less likely to experience extensive decline in health-related quality of life than are those who did not engage in the training. In addition, studies have shown that participants who take part in the training do better at activities that define independence and autonomy, such as taking medications and managing money.
Sources.“New Brain Fitness Training Promotes Health and Independence of Long Term Care Insurance Policyholders.” (2008, March 17). Retrieved March 27, 2008, from http://www.positscience.com/news/view.php?contentid=403.
Posit Science Corporation. (2008). InSight: Product description. Retrieved March 27, 2008, from http://www.positscience.com/products/cortex/description.php.
Online Tools Address Alzheimer’s Disease
Two new Alzheimer’s disease resources are now available online. “A Quick Look at Alzheimer’s,” a series of four animated “pocket” films, explain the essence of the disease and its public health implications in layman’s terms for doctors, nurses, caregivers, social workers, scientists, and others. The short films, no longer than 3 minutes each, were written and directed by David Shenk, author of the book The Forgetting, narrated by actor David Hyde Pierce, and developed by the Alliance for Aging Research through a grant from MetLife Foundation. Topics include What is Alzheimer’s Disease?, An Urgent Epidemic, The Race to the Cure, and A Message for Patients and their Families.
The films can be downloaded from http://www.aboutalz.org, http://www.agingresearch.org, Google™ Video, YouTube™, or as a DVD and are playable on iPods®, cell phones, PDAs, laptops, and DVD players.
Internet users who access http://www.alzinfo.org will be directed to a redesigned Web site from the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, which now boasts more user-friendly usability and navigation. The new site provides visitors with a thorough overview of the disease and information about treatments, current research, and where to find clinical trials; expert-reviewed news; caregiver information; and free access to Preserving Your Memory: The Magazine of Health and Hope. A special feature of the site is ALZTalk, a social networking environment complete with user profiles, forums, and chat rooms.
Sources.“New Tools Boost Alzheimer’s Awareness.” (2008, March 12). Retrieved March 27, 2008, from http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=ind_focus.story&STORY=/www/story/03-12-2008/0004773002&EDATE=WED+Mar+12+2008,+04:29+PM.
“New Website Launches a Network of Care for Alzheimer’s Caregivers.” (2008, March 4). Retrieved March 27, 2008, from http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS115107+04-Mar-2008+PRN20080304.
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