Research On Alzheimer


Dementia is the collective name for a broad category of brain disorders, sharing more or less the same common symptom of progressive deterioration of thinking, or what is known as cognitive impairment, and a degeneration of memory. There are many forms of this brain disorder but the most common is Alzheimer’s disease, affecting over 4 million people in the United States alone, a number that is set to climb higher for the next ten years.

Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder commonly affecting the elderly, especially those over 65 years of age. However, about 300,000 people below 65 are also suffering from the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s and people diagnosed with this disease often experience behavioral changes, mood swings, aversion and complete withdrawal from their surroundings, and eventually death as they lose even their ability to perform motor functions. However, much of Alzheimer’s research now going on has been focused on increasing our insight into the disease, which insight would eventually lead scientists to a cure.

Below are some of the more important Alzheimer’s research findings through the years:

Alzheimer’s Research Begins

It was Dr. Alois Alzheimer himself who spearheaded the biomedical aspect of Alzheimer’s research when he observed, in 1906, several abnormal structures in the brain tissue of a deceased female patient of his.  The structures were later described as “plaques and tangles” that are considered as the identifying features of Alzheimer’s disease.

As more and more attention is focused on Alzheimer’s research, scientists found out how degeneration of the brain cells occurs. First, the nerve cells in the part of the brain that deals with thinking and memory start to shrink before they eventually disappear. As the disease is progressive, this degeneration also begins to affect other parts of the brain, as shown by brain imaging scans of Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Alzheimer’s Research into Amyloid Plaques

The “plaques” composed largely of a protein called beta amyloid start to develop all over the brain. These dense little deposits appear between nerve cells and reach such excessive levels that the enzymes and other molecules that are tasked to clear them away are overwhelmed. Eventually, these deposits contribute to the degeneration of nerve cells since they are toxic, although how exactly they are able to kill nerve cells remains to be investigated.

A few Alzheimer’s research points to the action of free radicals, molecules that cause damage to normal living cells because of their highly unstable forms. Others are looking deeper into the Alzheimer’s research on the genetic factor of the disease, which particularly comes into sharp play when referring to Familial Alzheimer’s disease. According to Alzheimer’s research, the excess beta amyloid production in familial Alzheimer’s disease happens because certain inherited genes have mutated, including the gene for APP, the larger protein molecule comprised of beta amyloid among others.