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Alzheimer’s Disease

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Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition where the neurons degenerate in the brain, while the brain substance shrinks in volume. Alzheimer’s is also the number one cause of dementia. When it was first noticed, Alzheimer’s was thought to be a pre-senile disease, but now it is known to be responsible for seventy-five percent of the dementia cases in people over sixty-five years of age. Alzheimer’s disease usually causes several years of personal and intellectual decline until death. Because there is an increasing number of elderly citizens in the United States, research into the causes and possible cures for the disease is on the rise (1).

Several theories have been made concerning factors that may cause the condition; however, the cause remains unknown. Some suggest that it may be caused by some type of chronic infection or from exposure to a metal that may be toxic, such as aluminum (1). This line of belief originated from high levels of aluminum deposits being found in Alzheimer’s brain lesions (2). It is also known that people with Alzheimer’s have reduced levels of brain chemicals, such as acetylcholine (1). Additionally, people with Down’s Syndrome are more likely to acquire this dementia, with about fifteen percent of Alzheimer’s patients showing a family history of this disease. This leads many scientists to believe that there is a genetic link to the disease. When twins have been studied, a high agreement rate has been found for the disease. Furthermore, there is sometimes a very dominant pattern of inheritance of this disease, where a person has a fifty percent chance of acquiring it if either parent has Alzheimer’s (autosomal dominant transmission) (1,2).

It is rare to acquire Alzhei...

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...al and family study of 22 twin pairs. Neurology, 1987, 37, 359-3B3.

4. Thomas, C. L. Alzheimer’s Disease. Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 15th ea., 1985, 61.

5. Murray, R. K., Cranner, D. K., Hayes, P. A. and Rodwell, V. W. Deposition of Amyloid Beta Protein is Involved in the Causation of Alzheimer’s Disease. Harper’s Biochemistry, 23rd ed., 1993, 750-752.

6. Miyakskawa, T., Katsuragi, S., Watanabe, K., Shimoji, A. and Ikouchi, Y. Ultrastructure Studies of Amyloid Fibrils and Senile Plaques in the Human Brain,1986,70: 202-208.

7. Frazier, S. H. American Psychiatry Glossary, 5th. ed., 1988, 11; 50: 153.

8. Cohen, C. D. Useful Information on Alzheimer’s Disease. Department of Health and Human Services, 1990, 5-7.

9. Rosenberg, R. N. A Causal Role for Amyloid in Alzheimer’s Disease: The end of the beginning. Neurology, 1993, 43:851-854.
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