Alzheimers The Unsolved Mystery

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Alzheimer's: The Unsolved Mystery

Absentmindedness, with questions having to be repeated, trouble following conversations, or remembering people's names, sound familiar? These are classic early stage symptoms of Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's is a type of dementia in which parts of the brain stop working, causing memory loss, and instability in judgement, reasoning and emotions. Dementia, such as Alzheimer's is usually more frequent in elderly people. Approximately 15 percent of people who are over 65 will develop some form of dementia; by the age of 85 that percentage increases by at least 35 percent. Alzheimer's is the most common dementia, nearly four million Americans suffer from it.
Alzheimer's is a very complex disease. So complex that very little has been discovered about it but that is rapidly changing. Findings from epidemiology, genetics, molecular and cell biology are fitting together in the Alzheimer's puzzle, helping researchers to identify some of the mechanisms that underlie it. Alzheimer's starts because the normal processing of certain proteins goes terribly wrong. This causes brain cells and the spaces between them to be cluttered with pieces of toxic protein. Closer investigating with microscopes has revealed a loss of nerve cells in certain regions of the brain. Some of these dying nerve cells communicate using the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, these compounds eventually break down by an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. Also responsible for Alzheimer's are clusters of proteins in the brain which come in two forms: those found inside the nerve cells and those found in between the cells.
The clusters inside the cells look like pairs of threads wound around each other in a helix. The tangles consist of a protein called tau. Tau binds to another protein called tubulin. Tubulin then forms structures called microtubules which run through cells, giving support and shape. Also the microtubules provide pathways for nutrients and other molecules to travel through.
The main problem is that researchers can't quite figure out how Alzheimer's is started. Some the leads are its inherited genetically, is caused by major head injury, poor earl...

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... on this amazingly complex disease. The BAPP theory only accounts for five percent of all Alzheimer's cases. Some may believe that this is a small step in uncovering the mystery of Alzheimer's but I believe it will be a huge one after its throughly examined. The BAPP discovery should help open the door for Alzheimer's and reveal more about how the disease functions and what exactly causes it. For those people who are infected with the disease they can only sit in agony and hope that a more powerful insight is made for the sake of future generations. It is believed that by 2025 more than 22 million people world wide will be infected with Alzheimer's and as the average life span lengthens the percentage only gets steeper.
Alzheimer's is the worst kind of disease. It not only infects the being with which it is in but it also affects the people who know and love that person. For mankind's sake hopefully more work will be put into establishing a cure for this awful dementia.

Author: Peter H. ST. George-Hyslop , Scientific American, December 2000
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