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May 16, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Alzheimer’s/Blood Sugar Link

  |   Video
  • A new University of Arizona study suggests a possible link between elevated blood sugar levels and risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. Christine Burns, a researcher at the U of A, will talk about the study.
  • Christine Burns - Researcher, U of A
Category: Medical/Health   |   Keywords: health, study, Alzheimers, UA, disease, research,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: A new university of Arizona study suggested a possible link between elevated blood sugar levels and the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Here to talk about that is Christine Burns from the U. of A. We'll assume that your research is credible.

Christine Burns: Many thanks.

Richard Ruelas: Tell us what you studied. You looked at brain scans of people who showed some predisposition to Alzheimer's, and some who had no predisposition to Alzheimer's?

Christine Burns: Right. We based our research study on the fact that Alzheimer's disease patients do demonstrate reduced metabolism in some brain areas. Our study looked at healthy folks and how their PET imaging metabolism manifested in PET scans.

Richard Ruelas: Meaning how their brain uses up energy?

Christine Burns: Takes up glucose, correct.

Richard Ruelas: Had there been a link before, some thought that metabolism would affect someone's predisposition to Alzheimer's?

Christine Burns: Correct. We did see there was a pattern of reduced metabolism in certain brain areas. So that was what we based the current study on, that there is this picture, so to speak, of the Alzheimer's diseased brain, with respect to glucose metabolism. In this study we furthered it by looking to see if elevated fasting serum glucose levels in healthy folks were associated with reduced uptake in these same brain areas.

Richard Ruelas: So someone who has lowered -- someone who has the glucose level you're talking about, the fasting glucose, you were trying find a link between that number and whether their brain shows that predisposition?

Christine Burns: Right, an association or a correlation. We were looking to answer the question, if elevated fasting serum glucose rises, are you going see a reduction in the uptake of glucose case in these areas that are relevant to Alzheimer's decease.

Richard Ruelas: And it showed?

Christine Burns: That it did. We see an association between those that are non-diabetic, elevated fasting serum glucose levels and reduced glucose metabolism in A.D. relevant brain regions.

Richard Ruelas: I'm going try to translate. I'm not very intelligent, but I did go to ASU. Someone whose blood sugar is just a little higher than normal, but not diabetic, you found a link between that and their brain not processing glucose?

Christine Burns: We're thinking that as you are within the normal level of fasting serum glucose ranges, as your number, your fasting serum glucose number rises, there are certain areas of your brain that start to not use or metabolize that glucose as well. I don't think we would go so far based on this study to say, if I have a higher level of fasting glucose I'm more at risk. But there's definitely something going on with respect to that relationship.

Richard Ruelas: But there's a link in that, and the link merits further study?

Christine Burns: Of course. Especially since we know that diabetes mellitus has been linked to Alzheimer's risk. Fasting glucose levels are an indicator of diabetes mellitus risk or one of the things die bet ticks track for their own health.

Richard Ruelas: What would be the next study you would want to do to show that link?

Christine Burns: It would be unwise to just assume that fasting glucose serum is the only risk in the indicator to look at, especially with respect to risk for diabetes. I think a future study would include more indicators of poor glucose control, such as insulin. Some folks who struggle with diabetes or pre-diabetes might be used to hemoglobin levels that look at glucose control over time. To include more variables would be something that we'd want to do. We'd also want to look at this question longitudinally or long-term. In this study we just looked at a cross-section of folks who are on average about years of age. We want to see what elevated fasting serum glucose at baseline does across the time span, to both your brain imaging measure and your cognitive or memory and thinking scores.

Richard Ruelas: So right now -- and I guess even the idea that diabetes is linked to reduced brain function or possible risk for Alzheimer's -- let's start even there. Is it a -- does diabetes make it more likely you will get Alzheimer's or is it a risk factor?

Christine Burns: Oh, wow. So those -- sometimes those terms are utilized one and the same. I think I feel comfortable saying that diabetes mellitus is definitely one of the risk factors for development of Alzheimer's disease. It has been established along with age, genetics, as one of the top indicators that someone may go on to develop Alzheimer's disease. It is not one of these risk factors that one has to worry about a definite eventual diagnosis, but it's something I know health care professionals want to keep an eye on, and the research community, as well.

Richard Ruelas: So for those who are, again, in the public we hear studies like this and think, I now must change my behavior. I guess avoiding getting diabetes, having high blood sugar, is probably a good idea for a host of reasons.

Christine Burns: Right. So one of the further extensions of the study that you had alluded to before would be to galvanize the community to get involved. Many of them are in interventions. My background in psychosocial interventions for the delay of onset of Alzheimer's disease, or cardiovascular disease earlier on in development. So at midlife or earlier.

Richard Ruelas: And do we know whether the blood sugar levels in diabetics or those who haven't gotten it yet, does it cause the brain to process sugar poorly? There's just so much coming in? Or is it --

Christine Burns: Yeah, that's a question we haven't answered yet, but it's a good one. The link or the causal link, what is that link? What is the elevated fasting serum glucose doing to brain function or brain structure? That's still a question that needs to be answered. It could be answered with a host of different neuroimaging modalities, as well as neuropsychological functioning tests. There are lots of other scientists in Arizona that would love to contribute to answering that question. There's an association but we don't know the cause.

Richard Ruelas: I always thought there was a protein that, if it's seen in the brain, makes you more likely to have Alzheimer's.

Christine Burns: That's a very good point. That is a biomarker. That's the beta amyloid protein studied here at Arizona through some of the institutions of the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium. The beta amyloid protein, brain metabolism, hypertension, cholesterol, what researchers here in Arizona and nationally are doing is trying to come up with a model of risk factors that would most likely predict Alzheimer's disease development. So we are indeed not just looking at one isolated risk factor. Fasting serum glucose seems to play a role, but you bring up a very good point, there are a lot of other variables that we need to consider.

Richard Ruelas: And it looks like this study shows this could be yet another --

Christine Burns: Yes, of course. One of the many effects, which is important to remember.

Richard Ruelas: Christine, thanks for joining us this evening, it's a fascinating study.

Christine Burns: Thank you.

Arizona ArtBeat: Ballet Arizona’s TOPIA

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  • The Ballet Arizona’s TOPIA is back for the season. It’s a night of dining and ballet under the desert sky at the Desert Botanical Garden. Ballet Arizona Director Ib Andersen’s ballet was created specifically for the Garden and is performed on a giant 80-foot stage. Andersen will discuss the performance on Arizona Horizon.
  • Ib Andersen - Director, Ballet Arizona
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: art, artbeat, ballet, botanical, garden,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: Tonight in our ArtBeat segment, we tell you about a unique way to experience the ballet. The Ballet Arizona's "Topia" is back this season, a night dining and ballet under the desert skies at the Desert Botanical Garden. Ib Anderson's ballet was created specifically for the garden. He joins me mow to discuss the performance which runs to June 1st. Thanks for joining us this evening.

Ib Anderson: Thank you.

Richard Ruelas: You created this thing out of whole cloth. How unique is that to have a director create a new ballet?

Ib Anderson: Well, I'm a coreographer, so I've been doing ballets for more than years. It's not so unique. What's unique is that it's a site-specific place. And it's unique that it's an 80-foot stage. Normally a stage is like 40 feet. And then we are out in the desert, which is, as you know, very unusual. It's also staged every night, specifically when the sun goes down. It's right after the sun goes down. The sun goes down between those two buttes in the middle of it. The show actually starts, I would say, with the sunset. And in some ways you can say that's maybe the most spectacular of the show. But it sets off the mood of what comes next. Which is dancing and it's Beethoven's 6th symphony, the pastoral symphony. On a stage that is 32 inches high. If you sit a little bit elevated, it'll look like you're dancing, you as the dancers dancing in the desert. So I think all the combination together makes for more than it would be if it was just a ballet in a symphony hall.

Richard Ruelas: A symphony hall directs the audience's eyes to a single point or even a single dancer it seems like. On an 80-foot stage, it seems hard to take in everything presented.

Ib Anderson: It's meant to be like that. It's more how your eye looks when you look at landscape. This place here and this place there, and then we are also able to do with lighting, we are able to lift the path of the buttes, which is like over a mile away. We lit up the landscape, certain parts, so you see trees that are literally like a mile away. That is amazing, I must say.

Richard Ruelas: When you were there last year, especially as it was presenting, did you watch the audience watch the ballet? Did you see how they --

Ib Anderson: Well, I saw all the shows. But I'm sitting usually all the way in the back. I see the backs of the audience. I think, you know, when you are out there in nature, and especially at sunset, it does something to you. In the sense that it quiets you down, and you sort of -- it's a little bit like meditation. You have on top of that, when the sun sets down, you have the birds flying around. And this time there's a lot of birds flying aren't at night. There wasn't last year. I don't know what kind of birds they are, but obviously night birds.

Richard Ruelas: They heard how good the show is.

Ib Anderson: Well, they are attracted to the lights. You have them flying in over. All those things become part of the experience. The moon looks different each night and the stars are different, and sometimes we have a helicopter flying over, you know, so -- but it becomes part of the show. Yeah.

Richard Ruelas: As you were conceiving of the choreography did you place yourself mentally in the desert, or did you physically walk through where you thought it might be staged?

Ib Anderson: No. The problem is our studios are only 40 feet wide. When we choreographed it we were out in the parking lot to see if it was possible what I was doing, you know? -- because we couldn't fit it in the studios. So -- and for the most part it was maybe like three or four things on each part. What was the question again?

Richard Ruelas: Just saying how much the desert inspired you, if you had to be in a mental place to think what this would look like.

Ib Anderson: Well, it is about nature. But then the music is about nature. But it's also inspired by -- I mean, "Topia" means in Roman time, meant landscape painting and also landscaping, architecture and landscape. That's sort of what I'm after is painting the landscape, and also architecture in the landscape.

Richard Ruelas: And the piece of music too, Beethoven seems like it would be difficult to write or to choreograph to.

Ib Anderson: Well, I mean, I wouldn't ever dare choreograph to this music if it wasn't because it's out here. Because of the vastness of the nature, somehow the music seems right. The music is one of the greatest pieces of music ever written. And it's huge in scope. But somehow being out there it gives a good balance.

Richard Ruelas: I know in a story in the Sunday "Republic" you told my colleague you think the show could travel, not just be in the desert.

Ib Anderson: I would love to see it in Greece.

Richard Ruelas: And you mention it would travel pretty easily, as far as packing.

Ib Anderson: The costumes could be in the Safeway plastic bags. They basically don't wear anything, both out of practicality and also what I wanted to do. Last night it was close to 100.

Richard Ruelas: You don't want them to faint on stage. They need some natural air-conditioning.

South Mountain Freeway

  |   Video
  • A public hearing on a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed South Mountain Freeway will be held Tuesday, May 21. The hearing will provide the public with an opportunity to learn more about the proposed new freeway and provide formal comments. Timothy Tate of the Arizona Department of Public Transportation will discuss the upcoming hearing and the latest on the freeway proposal.
  • Timothy Tate - Arizona Department of Public Transportation
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: enviroment, public, freeway, proposal, South Mountain,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Richard Ruelas in for Ted Simons. A public hearing on a draft environmental impact statement for the proposed South Mountain Freeway will be held Tuesday, all day, at the Phoenix Convention Center. The hearing will provide the public with an opportunity to learn more about the proposed new freeway and provide formal comments. Timothy Tait of the Arizona Department of Public Transportation is here to discuss the upcoming hearing and the latest on the freeway. Thanks for joining us this evening.

Timothy Tait: Good evening.

Richard Ruelas: Who do you expect to hear from Tuesday?

Timothy Tait: We expect to hear from frankly everybody. Everybody from the community from across the Valley who are interested in this project. The project has regional significance and we want to hear from folks across the region.

Richard Ruelas: Do you expect to hear more so from people against the freeway being built, or against it being built in a certain area, than those who support it?

Timothy Tait: Sure. With events like this you hear from the passionate. It could be folks who are against or very supportive of the current alignment. We expect to hear a lot from those two ends of the spectrum. We encourage everybody to come and learn more about the project and participate in public hearing process.

Richard Ruelas: The environmental study itself is pretty thick, it's a pretty thick report. But I guess if you could summarize it, the thing that surprised a lot of people who read it was the fact that the study said if we don't build the freeway, the air quality gets worse in the city.

Timothy Tait: Not just air quality, but overall things aren't going improve if we don't make improvements to the transportation infrastructure. Air quality, surface transportation, just the ability to move around and support the economy really isn't enhanced as the valley continues to grow. Doing nothing really isn't an option. We have to do something to improve the transportation network. We believe that that something may be the South Mountain Freeway.

Richard Ruelas: Right now the current alignment on the south end, the Ahwatukee end, is pretty set. Seems like there's different options on the west end. Could you describe the preferred option and why maybe that's better than some of the other options?

Timothy Tait: Sure. On the west side there are three options. A 59th Avenue option is preferred. There's a 71st Avenue option and then the option all the way out to Loop 101. The 59th Avenue alignment is identified as the alignment for the freeway. So it's been planned around the freeway infrastructure. Which really supports economic development and community development. That's why several years ago ADOT identified it as the preliminary preferred alternative and why it's now the preferred alternative.

Richard Ruelas: The line has been there for a while. This is a freeway that's been studied for decades. But that 59th Avenue alignment has been sketched out for a while?

Timothy Tait: It has been, yes.

Richard Ruelas: So those who have businesses, there's very few homes, there are apartment complexes. But those who have businesses, live and work in that area, someone should have told them a freeway might be coming down this corridor?

Timothy Tait: That's right. It's no surprise to the entire corridor, it's been studied and analyzed really going back since the early 80s.

Richard Ruelas: What do you expect to hear from people on the south end, the Pecos Road alignment? What kind of comments from that time? From that neighborhood.

Timothy Tait: Sure, well, we expect comments you would really expect any time a freeway would be proposed in a neighborhood and that's impacts from noise, air quality, light effects, losing the view they currently have. There's all kind of impacts. What it comes down to is you can't build a major transportation infrastructure improvement like a freeway without there being some sort of impacts to the community. But we have to weigh those impacts with the benefits. And ultimately this freeway would carry about 140,000 vehicles a day on its planning horizon. So yes, there's going to be impacts. Really, we try to mitigate those as best we can, and really look at what is needed for the future of the corridor.

Richard Ruelas: The cars that would be going through South Mountain Freeway, is that new traffic or is that cars that are being removed from, say, I-10 and the Broadway curve going into downtown or the west side from the east side?

Timothy Tait: It's exactly that, that exchange of traffic from the Southeast Valley to the Southwest Valley. Traffic right now that's using the Broadway curve and Baseline Road and some of those other arterial streets, the Broadway curve, anybody who drives it knows it's highly congested. There are a lot of vehicles going through there right now. We're looking at 2030 and what traffic conditions are going to be there and we're seeing a significant information to traffic. So we’re trying to find solutions today to our traffic problems tomorrow.

Richard Ruelas: I know statutorily you have to have this public hearing. On a practical effect, what difference do public comments make? Can they actually move line on the plan?

Timothy Tait: They can make a difference. ADOT hasn't made decision whether or not this freeway will be built. This is still a proposal. That really is the effort right now, to bring this to a conclusion, to make a decision whether or not this freeway will or will not be constructed. That's where we're at right now. That's why we want to hear from people to, make that evaluation a final decision so, people across the alignment can know what's going to happen.

Richard Ruelas: Are the comments sort of gathered, summarized? Are the decision-makers at the hearing all day or given a concise summary of what's said?

Timothy Tait: Because comments come in during the 90-day comment period, they are sorted and responded to in the final environmental impact statement That really allows the document to be shaped based on that 90-day comment period.

Richard Ruelas: And finally right now this study did not include any Gila River land because the tribe has not put it out to the members if they want the freeway to go through tribal land. If that happens, do we have a new preliminary environmental impact study? Another public hearing, another environmental impact study finally?

Timothy Tait: Yeah. If an alignment were to development on the Gila River Indian community through new actions, we would have to study that. And it would certainly be another part of the process.

Richard Ruelas: But the environmental impact would then -- is it changing the entire study, or is it just looking at this small segment that would go through the tribal --

Timothy Tait: It would just be an addendum to the study. It would be additional work to study a new alternative.

Richard Ruelas: So maybe a slight delay but not years-long delay?

Timothy Tait: Could be a couple years.

Richard Ruelas: Timothy Tait, I appreciate you joining us, thank you so much.

Timothy Tait: You're welcome.