The Forgotten Issue of Alzeimers
By Genna Wacker
I am interested in this topic because despite being the 6th leading cause of death in America, it has no cure. However, there are many treatments and studies attempting to treat, delay, and prevent this disease. Further research of this tragedy would help countless families, and further our understanding of related diseases such as amnesia and dementia.
Alzheimers is the slow progressive mental deterioration that happens usually in middle or old aged people. It is usually linked to memory loss, but the entire brain is eventually affected. Most patients live 8 years, but survival can range from 4 to 20 years. Usually if a close family member has alzheimers, you are more likely to contract the disease, either due to genetics or environmental factors. There are 3 stages of alzheimers: mild, moderate, and severe-stage. In mild stage, patients will start having memory lapses, at first undetectable but eventually growing longer and more severe. Moderate stage is typically the longest stage, spanning for many years. The slow destruction of nerve cells in the brain can lead to confusion and difficulty in expressing thoughts and performing routine activities. Severe stage is the last stage, and individuals lose the ability to move, respond to their environment, and control their movement. They will need around-the-clock care, due to the loss of awareness of where they are and recent events. Alzheimers is a deadly disease, and researchers are struggling to find a cure.
The Brain with Alzheimers
Alzheimers leads to nerve death and the gradual shrinking of the brain, effecting all functions. The cortex- which is vital in thinking, planning, and remembering- begins to shrivel up as well as the hippocampus, which is related to memory.The ventricles, which are the fluid-filled parts of the brain, begin to expand. Dead or dying cells produce tangles in the brain, and abnormal amounts of protein in the brain produce plaques which generally reside in between cells. Plaques are formed by an imbalance and unregulated amount of the protein beta-amyloid. This access of amyloid bunch together and form plaques which can block cell-to-cell synapses,a nd can also trigger inflammation of cells as well as the devouration of disabled cellls. Tangles are deadly, because within the cell there are tracks, which transport food molecules, cell parts and other key items, and the tangles occur in these tracks. Eventually, the tracks will simply disintegrate, and then food products and organelles can no longer move within the cell, and the cell dies. Scientists are not sure what causes cell death in the brain, but tangles and plaques are the most likely causes. In the mild stage, tangles and plaques occur in areas of the brain related to learning, memory, thinking, and planning. In the moderate stage, it spreads to areas affecting your speech, and sense of where your body is in relation to objects around you. In severe stages, the cortex shrinks rapidly, affecting your ability to take care of yourself, recognize friends and loved ones, and communicate.
Research in Alzheimers
Although there is no cure, researchers are continually finding new treatments through clinical trials. Dr. Eli Lilly, for example, is testing to see if the drug solanezumab can slow the progression of plaques, which are directly related to alzheimers. Patients will either take the drug or a placebo for 3 years through an intravenous method and see the effects of the buildup of amyloid, which causes plaques. Dr. Paul Aisen is testing in order to see if the experimental drug, saracatinib, in older adults can slow disease progression by inhibiting the protein Fyn kinase, which effects neuron processing.
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