Daffodils and Dementia

Daffodils and Dementia

✿ It’s spring time in Maryland, and in the words of the poet Wordsworth, my heart dances with the daffodils. Through the long winter, I conjured up memories of these cheerful blooms in my mind:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

✿ But an estimated 44 million people world wide who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease are robbed of their memories by a progressive dementia. As the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., Alzheimer’s cannot be cured or prevented. One of the handful of drugs available to improve memory loss in patients is galantamine, which is extracted from the leaves and bulbs of daffodils (Narcissus) and snowdrops (Galanthus). These extracts have been in use since ancient times. In Homer’s Greek epic, Odysseus is said to have used snowdrops to clear his mind bewitched by Circe. In the 1950s, a pharmacologist observed inhabitants of a remote Bulgarian village rubbing the extracts on their forehead and shortly after, the drug was approved for medical use. Galantamine increases the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in some parts of the brain, both by making the receptor more sensitive to its action and by slowing down its removal. The drug has other interesting properties: it is said to promote lucid dreaming, improve sleep quality, memory loss in brain damage, and some autistic symptoms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galantamine).  

✿ No drug has yet stopped the inexorable progress of Alzheimer’s. Early intervention is key to effective treatment: in my lab, for example, we are studying endosomal pathology which is the earliest sign of problems at the cellular level (http://goo.gl/DtVUFT). Yet lack of funding stifles productive research. As Newt Gingrich points out in his recent Op-Ed for New York Times, we spend only 0.8% of the estimated 154 billion dollars of annual medical costs related to Alzheimer’s disease on research to cure or prevent it

News Story: Newt Gingrich: Double the NIH Budget. April 22, 2015 http://goo.gl/Fq4PAS 

Daffodil GIF: http://headlikeanorange.tumblr.com/

#ScienceSunday  

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133 Responses to Daffodils and Dementia

  1. Dr. Cassone says:


    My father died from Alzheimer’s. I took care of him. I fed him, bathed him, and eventually even changed his diapers. I cared for him until he no longer knew who I was.


    It was one of the greatest challenges of my life.


    Great post.

  2. Rajini Rao says:


    Dr. John Cassone it’s heartbreaking! I once sat at a table with heads of several clinical departments and the topic of “most dreaded way to die” came up. They all agreed that it was Alzheimer’s. 

  3. Dr. Cassone says:


    Yup. Just shoot me.

  4. Jodi Kaplan says:


    ^That’s what my mom says.

  5. Panah Rad says:


    For me, Alzheimer’s is the worst way to go. It’s really sad.

  6. Dr. Cassone says:


    Also the study of plant medicines is one of my greatest passions 🙂


  7. I didn’t realise this illness led directly to fatality. Thanks for the heads up.


  8. I haven’t been a fan of Gingrich since back in the 1990s, but I’m glad to see him saying some sensible things. Pointing out that government is uniquely equipped to deal with certain problems one of those sensible things.


    I’m generally a small-government guy, but I understand the role of government. It’s how we deal with problems that take collective knowledge and collective action. Research is one of the ways we increase our collective knowledge, and it’s certainly paid off over the years.


    In addition to the interesting link, I have a new-found respect for daffodils.

  9. Rajini Rao says:


    Mike McLoughlin Alzheimer’s begins with cognitive losses but ends in failure of organ systems and death. 

  10. Dr. Cassone says:


    My mother died from vascular dementia. They died eight months apart.

  11. Rajini Rao says:


    So many more potential therapeutics that remain to be discovered in our natural world, Dr. John Cassone !  The history behind the (re)discovery of galantamine is really cool. 

  12. Dr. Cassone says:


    Rajini Rao so fascinating to see modern science identify active ingredients. More funding needed!

  13. Rajini Rao says:


    J Bennett interesting that both Newt Gingrich and Eric Cantor have recently been vocal about increasing funding for medical research…now that they are out of office! I wish they had been this passionate in Congress. Nearly all basic research is supported by the federal government and to spend so little on Alzheimer’s research when it is projected to cost billions in an aging society is extremely short sighted, no matter what one’s political affiliation is, don’t you think?

  14. Chad Haney says:


    For a long time, people in the imaging community were using amyloid plaques as the target. It’s what was known, definitively to be involved with Alzheimer’s. However, as you mentioned, when the plaques form, it’s too late. I’m collaborating on an imaging agent that targets oligomers, the precursor to amyloid plaques. We are hoping that early (non-invasive) detection both clinically and preclinically will open doors towards treatment.


    I just hope you and I get the funding needed to keep moving forward.

  15. Rajini Rao says:


    Chad Haney the new research you describe is just what we need as a screen for early detection. We’re new to the AD field and getting funding has been incredibly difficult and discouraging. 


  16. Great post, Rajini Rao! I am so hopeful that the research you and Chad Haney​ do will pay off in improved treatment and quality of life for Alzheimer’s patient’s. The idea that we may reduce or eliminate this disease is incredibly exciting!​

  17. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, Michael Verona ! I should add genetic screening to the mix- we know increasingly more about genetic predispositions now so we should be able to identify high risk populations at the pre-clinical stage, that is, before they start to show symptoms. A pathologist who I work with can see problems in brain (post mortem) in these people even before they show cognitive impairment. Of course, we need non invasive methods of catching these, as Chad Haney does 🙂

  18. Victor H says:


    Dr. John Cassone I went through that with my dad. I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone. It’s often referred to as “the long goodbye” and with good reason. My dad was in great physical shape for a man his age and he did plateau for a while. But nine years of dementia after a long hard life was cruel.

  19. Dr. Cassone says:


    Victor H it certainly is a long goodbye. Terrible affliction.


  20. I lost my paternal grandfather to Alzheimer’s when I was 17, and my maternal grandmother is showing the symptoms now. And I scoff and choke angrily at the big pharma commercials or special news segments on TV about drugs or therapies that claim to slow the progression of the disease or improve cognition, because as you point out, so far there seems to be no such thing. Thanks for the read on what is actually being done, compared to what the big drug companies says is being done.

  21. Rajini Rao says:


    Lawrence Hults II sadly, yes: there are only 4-5 drugs that are useful, and only in early stage AD. They are considered “palliative” and not a cure. One of the reasons that Alzheimer’s is so difficult to treat is that the damage builds up for years before we even begin to notice symptoms. 


  22. .08%. That’s a telling statistic. That is woefully short considering the percentage of the population that will face this affliction.


    Terrible to watch a loved one fade to a stranger like a slow leak, but I wonder from the individual’s perspective if it wouldn’t be a minor blessing in that they have no memory of who they were to compare with…


  23. My grandmother had it or dementia. Hard to tell which it is until after death and an autopsy is done. Yes her symptoms likely began showing a good ten years before her death. It was the thing she most feared. I lost my beloved grandma two years before she actually died.


    I’ve never understood why modern politicians cannot see that prevention and treatment is far more important than all the money spent after it is too late. Without the government funding for research there is little to hope for in the future. Maybe when millions of U.S. boomers “suddenly” have it funding will be seen as vital.

  24. Bill Collins says:


    As always, a most thoughtful post. Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease. My mother in law suffered from it for 10 years before passing on. Now, I had not heard about the galantine treatment so that’s interesting. More interesting though would indeed be higher and better funding for research such as what you’re doing. We lose wisdom and humanity when people have to succumb because we can’t cure it.

  25. John Kellden says:


    One of the loveliest gifs I’ve seen.

  26. Rajini Rao says:


    Alzheimer’s touches so many -the statistics are that it affects 1 in 8 people 65 years of age or older. Bill Collins , you may recognize the trade names of galantamine, which are Reminyl (old) or Razadyne (new). The other drugs in this class of “cholinesterase inhibitors” are tacrine (Cognex), donezepil (Aricept), and rivastigmine (Exelon).


  27. Thank you for sharing :).  I have watched the people in two families who had an elder with Alzheimer’s, it was the saddest thing.  They missed what they knew of the one with the disease and the One with the disease was completely oblivious.  I wish they knew this info, it could have helped them cope better.

  28. Dorothy Pugh says:


    I hope this new drug will work.  But, if I may ask a “stupid” question, is Alzheimer’s truly a disease or just a collection of symptoms and pathologist-detected signs?  Is it possible that a completely understood disease (and many cause reversible dementia), undiagnosed, could cause the brain damage associated with Alzheimer’s?

  29. Rajini Rao says:


    Dorothy Pugh that’s a great question, and perhaps a physician would like to chime in (Johnathan Chung ?). There are overlapping clinical symptoms as well as shared risk factors (genes, for example) between many forms of dementia and neurodegenerative diseases. My understanding is that Lewy bodies, amyloid plaques and tau fibrils seen in postmortem brains provide definitive diagnosis. 

  30. Gary Ray R says:


    Another excellent post Rajini Rao.


    I just lost my dear mother to Alzheimer’s in February.  At the end she did not recognize me, broke my heart to see her like that.


    I too am surprised that Newt is speaking up for more research money for Alzheimer’s research.  Can’t stand his politics, but on this subject we agree. 


    I wish you and Chad Haney the best in getting more funding for research on this terrible disease. 


    Thank you for your work. 

  31. Rajini Rao says:


    I remember your loss, Gary Ray R -my heartfelt sympathies. Fortunately, biomedical research does usually have bipartisan support although the economic downturn hit funding agencies hard. NIH has actually lost 25% of its purchasing power in the last decade. It’s extremely disheartening to apply for funding these days and scientists are closing their labs in droves. I hope Congress comes to its senses and fixes this soon, before we lose any more researchers and valuable opportunities. 


  32. Can you please tell me whether cell therapy is available for cone dystrophy


  33. Excelent Rajini Rao​


    Thank You.


  34. Beside the lake, beneath the trees,


    Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.


    Ten thousand saw I at a glance,


    Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.


    I gazed—and gazed—but little thought


    What wealth the show to me had brought:


  35. Could one make salad of them and eat them as a preventive measure … 😉


    Happy new week Rajini !!

  36. Rajini Rao says:


    Many thanks for completing the poem, John Condliffe !

  37. Rajini Rao says:


    Unfortunately, not Magnus Fahlén . Daffodils are toxic, particularly to cats!  Causes severe vomiting and lethargy 😦


    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC548613/

  38. Jim Carver says:


    My Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but Mom and I never thought it was. After needless drugs a smart doctor finally figured out it was a brain aneurysm. It didn’t much matter since the symptoms were about the same.


    But we knew.


  39. I,m sitting pretty; my anti-epileptic is the powerful barbiturate used in Swiss euthanasia clinics, Just need a reliable diagnostic test for early onset dementia while  still compos mentis So I’m rooting for you Chad Haney 


  40. I could say plenty about funding, but I’ve no doubt you’ve heard it (or thought it) all. At the least, I do my best to make sure other people are actually aware of it.


    Compounds and drugs derived from common plants are one of my favorite topics. It always gives people a new appreciation for something they haven’t thought of before. My sister was telling me about a common chemotherapy drug derived from yucca used in cervical cancers (of course I don’t remember the name). Add that on top of its history in WWII, its edibility, its use in fishing, the story of the yucca moth, and it makes yucca that much more interesting. Although, to be fair, daffodils are a little better known 😉

  41. Rajini Rao says:


    Carissa Braun I see a post on yucca coming up, complete with your own photograph of a yucca plant! I just saw your post on mutualism between the yucca plant and yucca moth. No luck finding the identity of this yucca compound for chemotherapy. 


  42. Have you seen the report about this study, Rajini Rao or maybe any follow-ons or updates? As they say, it was small and anecdotal, but I found it compelling (to the point of choking down a bunch more supplements than I was taking before 🙂


    http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-10-memory-loss-alzheimer-reversed.html


    http://www.impactaging.com/papers/v6/n9/full/100690.html

  43. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, stefan jeffers , I’ll give it a read. Certainly, it makes sense not to depend on a single therapeutic agent but to combine diet, exercise and chemotherapeutics. As they point out, they will need to run a clinical trial to control for placebo effects. Sounds interesting! 


  44. Here’s a great (and, I guess, sobering) recap of the recent excitement over ultrasound vs. amyloid plaques. This is what I expected to find, several weeks after the initial “excitement” in the general press.


    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/ultrasound-for-alzheimers-disease/

  45. Rajini Rao says:


    David Archer I’m afraid hype has become the standard in popular press reporting. Much of this is from the researchers themselves and the university press releases that make every new publication sound like a breakthrough. I agree with neurologica: the ultrasound experiment was done in mice. We scientists are very good mouse doctors 🙂

  46. Imran Khan says:


    This is what I expected to find, several weeks after the initial “excitement” in the general press.

  47. utpal bose says:


    How will one know that he is suffering from Alzheimer?


  48. Also as a nurse I can tell you:you won’t know if you have it,half the times those closes to them don’t recognize it. Sorry.


  49. poetry is nothing but Beauty of Nature


  50. OMG!!! That was one of my fav. poem in school


  51. very beautiful!


    I remember the beauty of them in European countries a lot!

  52. Jean Liss says:


    I think of an old Genesis song when I think of these flowers….


    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/genesis/suppersready.html


    But we were looking for protein folding chaperones for the cause of the plaques back when I was studying NMR.


  53. We’re is spring….it feels like sept


  54. Is life like a daffodils flower?


    What a beautiful life it is…


  55. Dancing daffodils! delightful daffodils


    Diminishes dementia dreams double

  56. Rajini Rao says:


    That’s delightful, MV Lokanadham 🙂


  57. Geometry of flowers show us a very nice piece of the cosmic mistery.

  58. Bill Collins says:


    Ah. Aricept I have heard of since my mother-in-law was receiving that. Thanks!


  59. Rhythmic movements  with silence sounds


    Attracting with golden daffodil flowers


    Different heights of growth as we are


    Speaking all with lovely messages

  60. Jesse H says:


    Finally we are enjoying the warm weather. Winter just didn’t want to let go Rajini. Have a great day.

  61. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, you too Jesse! It’s great to be out in the garden again. 


  62. Yeah well thanks for the info Rajini Rao 🙂


    Not so clever “joke” by me there … ;-D


  63. THANKING YOU MADAM  IT IS VERY VERY 


    MY MIND IS FREE AND PLESENT ALSO


    THANKS LOT


    GOD BLESS YOU


    V.L.NARAYANAN


  64. pour conseil, soit moins romantique car avoir l’esprit de romance en toi met en mal le plus souvent le but de se trouver quelqu’un à ta convenance


  65. Ah, dang it. I keep meaning to reply and keep forgetting, Rajini Rao. I missed it at first, and now my problem is finding the answer for you. Of course the conversation with my sister was too long ago for her to remember off the top of her head now. I’ll keep looking (or pestering her; whichever one works best).

  66. Rajini Rao says:


    No worries, Carissa Braun . In case you come across it, let us know here! 

  67. Chad Haney says:


    When I was in grad school, medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy were down the hall. I agree Carissa Braun​ they are interesting fields.


  68. Will do! As she works in clinical trial research, there is a chance the drug has no approval yet which could be part of the problem…


  69. Rajini Rao reading through this and learning that so many of the people here whose names I know have in common with one another the nightmare experience of having a parent, or two parents, or someone they love and know suffer from Alzheimer’s is heartbreaking. Heartbreaking.


    Dr. John Cassone My mother as well. And my husband’s mother. I do understand the differences between the different kinds of dementia – vascular, Alzheimer’s itself – but, I dare say, from the POV of the caretaker the results and the outward expression of it is the same, the slow brutal, unforgiving demise of someone who used to know who they were.


    I think that this “disease” is going through the same denial stage as did The Big “C” when it was hush hush to talk about it, and then that AIDs did many years later. We have to go through this kind of cultural breakdown, when we lose our shame and embarrassment and simply hunker down and face our fears.


    I think everyone I know has a huge fear of going down the dementia road, and yet everything goes toward breast cancer research et. al.


    Dr. John Cassone I believe from everything I’ve read that inflammatory markers are hugely important and I think diet is key, so I’m grateful to you for putting all that information out there in such a User Friendly way.


    Thank you Rajini Rao for this. And Hello Chad Haney and bravo for the work you, too, are doing. People all over the world need it!


  70. Giselle Minoli thank you very much for emphasizing that “what it is” (the exact diagnosis) may not be as crucial in the “here and now realities” in how we deal with such crises in the health and welfare of our loved one AND ourselves.

  71. Rajini Rao says:


    Giselle Minoli as I re-read the comments, I too was struck by how many of us had a parent or grandparent struck with Alzheimers. The statistics are that 1 in 8 adults over 65 (13%) has AD. 


  72. Hi, cobalt please thank you and that issue came home to roost with me particularly in a family fight over what it was exactly that our mother was suffering from. Insurance, medicare, prognoses, care options…all of these things have different results and different meanings depending on what it is that someone has.


    From the POV of doctors and nurses and dedicated dementia facilities it is one thing. But for family members…spouses, sisters, brothers, children…it is one thing and one thing only: a long slow and excruciatingly painful emotional rollercoaster in which more than a loved one is destroyed. This disease flattens so many families’ financial resources. 


    And it also sets family members against one another. I do not believe, personally, that everyone should be or can be taken care of at home. Not every family has that particular set up. We are in so much country-wide denial about the domino effect this disease has on everyone related to someone with dementia.


    I think this is going to be big news within the coming year. Boomers are going to play a big role in getting this changed and hopefully in pushing to direct more resources in this direction. I think it is the next “wave” of healthcare push – caring for the elderly.

  73. Chad Haney says:


    Thanks Giselle Minoli​. If only we could convince legislators to increase funding for research. We make baby steps when we could make large steps with proper funding.


  74. When enough “legislators” are dealing with Alzheimer’s and related dementia in their personal families Chad Haney then they will push for money. Part of the problem is that powerful people do not want to admit publicly that Mom or Dad or their beloved wife or husband has Alzheimer’s. Look at Nancy Reagan’s denial. She could have done so much more so much sooner. But I do believe that it is going to soon change. We have an aging population and literally I don’t think we can afford to care for all of those/us who are going to go down this road. It has to change..

  75. Chad Haney says:


    Let’s hope so. Then maybe other research can get funded after that.


  76. good rajini rao. m asmaeeilaraq

  77. Ruby Rose says:


    Can you do poppies?

  78. Rajini Rao says:


    Chad Haney hi how r u? 😉 I find that removing one-word comments from my posts is quite similar to weeding the garden. 

  79. Chad Haney says:


    Rajini Rao, I amused myself with Nice, Nice, Baby!

  80. Chad Haney says:


    I better play Under Pressure. I don’t want that nasty Vanilla Ice earworm.

  81. Rajini Rao says:


    Now I get it, well-played Chad Haney 🙂 


  82. I rather enjoyed the insertion of the definitively musical “Excellent” into the one-word string Chad Haney. It added a certain Je ne sais quoi to the mix. 

  83. Chad Haney says:


    Sometimes I try to be silly and clever at the same time. Rajini Rao​ tolerates me when I mock the drivel (comments).

  84. Gary Ray R says:


    Mock the Drivel is a good name for a band though.


  85. It is indeed Gary Ray R. Or a book of some sort. It could also be one of the characters in the new Mad Max movie but we’d have to change the punctuation. as in Mock, the Drivel. Rajini Rao is tolerant. She has that smile thing going on Chad Haney.


  86. Mock the Toad’s Wet Sprocket Drivel

  87. Marta Rauch says:


    Thank you Rajini Rao​

  88. Chad Haney says:


    I’m well. Thank you.

  89. Raoni says:


    Gingseng may lever some heads


  90. Alone again naturally!

  91. Stephen Peel says:


    Hi Rajini, I hope you don’t mind me asking and posting like this, as I see you are already so busy, but we have a great new Collections Community which we would love for you to share your Collection’s with.


    As you will likely already be aware, Collections are not easily searchable and found, so we have created a great place for sharing Collection’s only, to help get them out there, with categories, and allowing hash tags during posting.


    We already have around 400 amazing Collection’s, shared and created by hundreds of wonderful members thus far. Please take a look and see if it’s for you, I think you will pleasantly surprised, and it’s open to everyone to join.


    All the best to you either way and I wish you well. Steve


    https://plus.google.com/communities/101885389612190759002

  92. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, Stephen Peel. I just joined the community and will check it out. 

  93. Stephen Peel says:


    Rajini Rao


    That’s great Rajini, and welcome. Steve

  94. 連盈貴 says:


    (逢低布局)。


  95. Dr. Cassone I shall also want to rather end it nicely in time

  96. dutta. tari says:


    Thanks for the update

  97. dutta. tari says:


    Sending you the daffodils from my place 😊💐💖👌


    https://plus.google.com/photos/

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