Wednesday 15 November 2023

The Link Between Sleep and Dementia Risk: A Wake-Up Call
In our fast-paced lives, sleep often falls down our list of priorities, but recent research from Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia, is a stark reminder of its critical importance, especially deep sleep. A retrospective cohort study, published in JAMA Neurology, reveals a compelling link between the loss of deep sleep and an increased risk of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's Disease (AD).

The Study: A Deep Dive into Sleep and Dementia
The study hinged on participants from the renowned Framingham Heart Study, focusing on a subset aged 60 or over. These individuals underwent two polysomnographic sleep studies between 1995-1998 and 2001-2003. They were then monitored until 2018 for signs of dementia.

What sets this study apart is its meticulous methodology. Participants were assessed not just for sleep patterns but also for genetic predispositions to Alzheimer's. This comprehensive approach sheds light on the intricate interplay between our genetics, our sleep, and our brain health.

The Findings: A Startling Association
The results are alarming yet informative. Over an average of 12 years after the second sleep study, 52 of the 346 participants developed dementia, with 44 of these cases being Alzheimer's. The startling revelation was that each percentage decrease in Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS), or deep sleep, per year corresponded to a 27% increase in all-cause dementia risk and a 32% increase in the risk for Alzheimer's.

These findings point towards the critical role of SWS in brain health. As lead investigator Dr. Matthew Pase notes, "Slow-wave sleep, or deep sleep, supports the ageing brain in many ways, including the clearance of metabolic waste." This is particularly significant in the context of Alzheimer's, where the failure to clear certain proteins is a hallmark of the disease.

 The Implications: A Modifiable Risk Factor
This research is a wake-up call, highlighting SWS loss as a potentially modifiable dementia risk factor. It suggests that by prioritizing deep sleep in our later years, we could significantly lower our risk of dementia. 

 In Practice: What Can We Do?
While there are limitations to the study, such as the absence of gold-standard AD biomarkers and its observational nature, the implications are too significant to ignore. Enhancing the quality of our sleep, particularly deep sleep, could be a key strategy in mitigating dementia risk.

 Final Thoughts
In an age where sleep is often sacrificed at the altar of productivity, this study is a crucial reminder of its importance. It's not just about the quantity of sleep but the quality, particularly the deep, restorative stages that could hold the key to our cognitive well-being in our later years. As we understand more about the links between sleep and dementia, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate our sleep habits and give our brains the rest they deserve.

Wednesday 8 November 2023

Chewing Away the Pandemic: The Breakthrough COVID-Neutralising Gum
As we continue to adapt to life with COVID-19, a new weapon in the fight against the pandemic is sticking its way to the forefront—literally. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have unveiled a chewing gum that can neutralize the COVID-19 virus in the saliva, potentially reducing the risk of transmission. This isn't just a fresh breath mint; it's a fresh perspective on pandemic control measures.

This novel idea comes from the laboratory of Henry Daniell at Penn’s School of Dental Medicine, who has been working on plant-based protein research long before the pandemic's onset. Their focus pivoted to our current global crisis, leading to a fascinating discovery: a gum that can tackle the virus where it's most prevalent—our mouths.
The science is impressive: angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) proteins, grown in plants and extracted in the lab, are used to create this groundbreaking gum. These proteins are the virus's preferred host receptors in the human body, making them the ideal candidate for a COVID-19 countermeasure. Daniell's previous research on a hypertension treatment inadvertently set the stage for this innovative approach to viral defense.
The potential applications are exciting and far-reaching. For instance, in dental care, where procedures necessitate the removal of masks, this gum could serve as an extra layer of protection for both patients and healthcare providers. The pre-appointment chew could become a new routine, offering peace of mind along with dental health.
The implications extend beyond professional settings, with possible benefits for daily interactions, especially in those critical moments where social distancing is not possible. Furthermore, the accessible nature of chewing gum as a delivery system could serve as an alternative or complement to vaccinations, particularly appealing to those hesitant about vaccines.
Daniell's team has published data showing a significant decrease in the amount of the virus after using the gum. With a compelling combination of convenience and science, this chewing gum could soon become a staple in our collective toolkit against COVID-19.
It's rare to find a pandemic response that can be packaged so neatly and enjoyably—perhaps in the future in the delightful form of Dubble Bubble. It's this kind of innovation that makes the future of public health not only look promising but also, potentially, a little sweeter. Keep your masks on, your hands clean, and maybe soon, your chewing gum armed against COVID-19.