Will COVID-19 Transform the Treatment of Dementia?

The 511

Back in the 20th century, we called 411 for information. Today, information’s aplenty, so you’re looking for something more. The 511 includes: 

  • 5 short paragraphs about medtech, biotech, or another science-y thing
  • 1 sentence for reflection (and maybe a laugh), and 
  • 1 track I’ve currently got in heavy rotation.

Alzheimer’s disease: it’s not just an elderly thing

A handful of recent studies of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia identifies key early-life factors associated with higher risk for dementia: “low educational level, midlife hypertension, midlife obesity, hearing loss, late-life depression, diabetes, physical inactivity, smoking, and social isolation.” Each of these factors has a social component, and their incidence varies by socioeconomic status and racialization. And the impact will not be cheap. Over the next 30 years, the healthcare costs for dementia are expected to be close to $8 trillion, with a “t.” After 200 failed drug trials in the past 30 years (many of which were beta-amyloid-and-tau-neurofibrillary-tangle centric), the NIH called on researchers in 2017 “to ensure that complex etiologies are captured for study.”

I’m with you. So there’s a COVID connection? 

Possibly. The response to the killing of George Floyd has reignited the abolitionist imaginary of thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans. The continued protests across the country reflect a critical demand akin to the core ethos of critical theory (those Frankfurt School cats): things could be otherwise. Things under close consideration include policing, universal health care, and tuition at public colleges and universities. New standards for early childhood care may be next, given the importance of brain development in early childhood.

“The brain develops most rapidly and is most plastic in the first 5 years of life. Strong early brain development supports more complex subsequent neuritic and intraneuronal connections and cognition, conferring lifelong advantage.” 

Sarah E. Tom, et al., Department of Neurology, Columbia University

The cost of a college education is one thing, but it pales in comparison to infant care: in most states, it costs more than public college tuition. It’s a primary barrier for 60% of parents seeking infant or toddler care.

Remind me: what’s “etiology”? 

Etiology (def.) — The study of causes, as in the causes of a disease.

New paradigms in the study and treatment of AD and dementia may better accommodate for the impact of genetics and environmental factors. Likewise, with the right structural incentives, researchers will reevaluate current biomarkers — and develop new ones — with equitable diagnostic effectiveness across racial lines. Compared to white Americans, African Americans are at increased risk of AD. And yet, most AD biomarker studies have included few African American participants, and a recent evaluation of a cerebrospinal fluid biomarker revealed different thresholds along racial lines.  

Advances in biomarkers for AD 

A new study describes the use of new blood tests for plasma p-tau217 as predictors of the presence of amyloid plaques. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis showed that plasma assays for p-tau217 could be used as a screening tool and replace clinical use of costly PET imaging.

“I really think this is going to be a huge advance in Alzheimer’s disease. It’s almost like the first steps that blood tests for cholesterol in heart disease took back in the 1950s and ’60s.”

Howard Fillit, MD, of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation

As folks advocate for a more perfect union, let’s hope the related benefits of this development will be reaped in an equitable manner. Who knows? In the near future, maybe we’ll have canine-based assays for cancer and other diseases. No comment yet from the feline community.

5(1)1 — On leadership

“While now is a time to foster trust and delegate, [managers] don’t want [employees] debating about whether they should or shouldn’t do a major project. All that time questioning what to do will impact productivity … Managers should make the call on high-level priorities, so employees can focus on their best work.”

Julia Austin, Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School (here)  

51(1) — In rotation

Part of me misses the work once entailed in finding new music, or even new old music. Most of me, though, finds great delight in finding something via three clicks — especially when it’s a cover song so delightful it might make you forget the original. 

Goodbye, Arctic Monkeys. Hello, Baby Charles.

Here’s Baby Charles’ “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor.” 

If you like this stuff, and you know someone interested in health, leadership, and music, all mixed up with a dash of humor, please spread the word.

I’m also on this thing called Twitter (@randaldoane). 

While it may be a passing fad, drop me a note, if you like what you see.


Association of Demographic and Socioeconomic Factors by Birth Cohort With Dementia Incidence

NIH Alzheimer’s Disease Center Recommendations 

Disentangling the Amyloid Pathways: A Mechanistic Approach to Etiology 

Child Care Aware of America’s 12th Annual Cost of Care Report Shows Child Care Outpaces Nearly All Other Family Expenses Nationwide 

Investing in Infant and Toddler Child Care to Strengthen Working Families


The New Rules for Remote Work: Pandemic Edition

Baby Charles – Home

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Published by Randal Doane

Living the good life in NE Ohio. I dig science and the written word. Let's build something amazing together.

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