Alzheimer’s Disease Research: The Science behind the Disease
There is a significant increase in the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This has led to Alzheimer’s disease research. This is emerging as a cutting-edge exploration into the mysteries of the human brain. Scientists have identified distinct features separating Alzheimer’s from other cognitive disorders. Scientists now have a positive idea about why people suffer dementia symptoms. Especially related to Alzheimer’s.
Patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s consistently exhibit the following hallmarks:
- Neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques. These impair brain functioning. These plaques saturate the brain with beta-amyloid peptide proteins. These microscopic protein strands consist of “tau” proteins. Tau proteins are responsible for microtubule stabilization. This is vital component in maintaining normal cognitive functioning
- Brain cells no longer have connections with each other. This is due to tangles and plaques and neurons are unable to communicate via synapses. This results in severely impaired thought processes
- Brain tissues are shrunken and inflamed. Ventricles containing cerebrospinal fluid enlarge, creating pressure against various parts of the brain.
- Alzheimer’s patients that have plaques but no tangles, have a slower rate of disease progression. It has been discovered those with tangles but no plaques have a faster rate of decline. Individuals diagnosed with tangles often develop frontotemporal dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease research is performed by: doctors, geneticists, neurologists and pathologists. They are developing methods of preventing, slowing and even curing the disease. One day in the future is possible a cure will be discovered within the next 25 years.
The New England Journal of Medicine in July, 2012 edition, and reports a description of the brain as it deteriorates. This study was groundbreaking on Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists working at St. Louis, Missouri’s Washington University School of Medicine did this study.
The scientists studied people who were considered genetically predisposed to develop Alzheimer’s. A set of pre-symptomatic dementia symptoms was commonly detected. This may indicate the onset of Alzheimer’s 20 to 30 years before loss of memory. It also determined other signs of dementia occurred. One of the earliest changes was an elevation of tau proteins in the spinal fluid found in a subject’s body.
New information showed that plaques are clearly visible in brain scans taken. They found that there were scanned 15 years prior to a patient developing memory problems. Researchers plan to attempt to either block growth of plaques with medication. Another approach may be to remove existing plaques. This is to stop further advancement of dementia stages.
A decrease in the way the brain utilizes glucose may be warning sign that someone may suffer from Alzheimer’s.
The brain decreases in how much glucose is used.
Another sign is shrinkage of vital brain structures. This can be determined nearly 20 years before manifestation of dementia symptoms.
Dr. Laurie Ryan, Ph.D and program director of clinical trials performed at the National Institute on Aging states, “These findings confirm what was long suspected. Alzheimer’s disease actually begins eroding the brain decades before cognitive decline presents.
Alzheimer’s Disease Research Suggests New Treatment Based on Protein Structure
The June 1, 2012 issue of Science magazine recently stated .” the molecular structure of proteins allows the protein to bind with cholesterol. This discovery will lead to the development of more effective medications.
Professor of Biochemistry for the Center for Structural Biology Dr. Charles Sanders determined that the internal arrangement of the amyloid precursor protein might be vulnerable to any substances. This reduces production of amyloid-beta, the primary cause of plaques.
People with high cholesterol are at risk for suffering from Alzheimer’s. Scientists suspect that cholesterol helps bind amyloid proteins to create plaques. Researchers think that a drug created that prevents cholesterol from binding to amyloid precursor protein would make a difference. Certain enzymes could be allowed to cleave the protein. This inhibits the generation of amyloid-beta.
Some drugs that scientists hope will one day prevent plaques from forming have been tested. Many have serious side effects. They cannot be made available to Alzheimer’s patients until further modifications have been completed.
Cutting-Edge Alzheimer’s Disease Research Investigates Deep Brain Stimulation
John Hopkins Medicine reports patients in the early stages of dementia may benefit from a new treatment. It is a continuous transmission of electrical impulses. These impulses are supplied by device implanted into brain areas associated with memory.
When this treatment is used on patients with depression and Parkinson’s, there was as increased neuronal activity. Researchers believe it may prove beneficial to Alzheimer’s patients.
Using Diabetes Drugs in Alzheimer’s Disease Research
A study published in the July issue of Cell Stem Cell, looked at Metformin. Diabetics to control blood glucose levels use the drug Metformin. It seems to stimulate the formation of new neurons. Researchers see promise in applying Metformin to Alzheimer’s patients. They may use this as a way to replenish neurons that have been devastated by tangles and plaques.
One problem with Metformin is the potential for users to develop lactic acidosis. Especially if they suffer from kidney disease, liver disease, alcoholism, or have an infection about which they are unaware.
The future of Alzheimer’s disease research looks extremely promising. New and improved medications are being developed every year. These continue to provide help for Alzheimer’s patients. It helps those with cognitive debilitation, loss of memory and disturbing behavioral changes.