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Alzheimers Disease

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Alzheimer's Disease

Introduction to Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain.

It is first described by the German neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915)

in 1905. This disease worsens with advancing age, although there is no evidence

that it is cause by the aging process.

The average life expectancy of a person with the disease is between five

and ten years, but some patients today can live up to 15 years due to

improvements in care and medical treatments. The cause of Alzheimer's has not

been discovered yet and it cannot be possible to confirm a person has

Alzheimer's until their autopsy following death.

How does Alzheimer's develop

What causes Alzheimer's? Well no one know exactly the development of

this debilitating disease. But recent advances has produced several clues as to

how it is born. Initially when we study the brain of a Alzheimer's victim, we

focus on two specific areas. One is the cortex of the frontal and cerebral

lobes1. The second is the hippocampus (meaning seahorses in Greek which it

resembles2) which is located below the cerebral cortex and responsible for

short-term memory. If we study samples of these two section, we would find three

irregularities which are not found in normal brain matter. These three are

called neurofibrillary tangles, neuritic plagues and granulovacuolar

degeneration3.

A nerve cell has numerous axons and dendrites coming out of it. A

neurofibrillary tangle is when the neuron changes. A number of dendrites are

missing and the nucleus is filled with protein filaments resembling steel wool.

Although all elderly people has a few of these helix shaped bundles in

their brain for they are normal indicators of aging, Alzheimer's patients has

more than usual. Their presence usually in the frontal and temporal lobes is a

indication of AD.

Senile neuritic plagues are small round objects. They are masses of

amyloid protein material composed of residue left over from healthy nerve

endings that were broken off and decayed. Their presence near the cell further

indicates something gone wrong. Neuritic plaques is the best evidence for

diagnostics to make the determination of AD.

A third sign of neuron deterioration is granulovacuolar degeneration.

This is when fluid-filled vacuoles are seen crowding inside the nerve cell,

specifically in the triangular shaped cells of the hippocampus. This condition

can only be observed in carefully sliced, stain and analyzed brain tissue.

The cell having lost all it's dendrites and nucleus soon disintegrates

entirely, vanishing into the body's waste disposal system. With the depletion of

enough nerve material the brain actually shrinks, sometimes by as much as ten

percent5. The more cells the AD sufferer loses, the more mental functions he
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