Cause, Pathology and Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease
Growing up in the 80's I remember my mother questioning President Reagan's politics, policies, morality, and even his sanity. Though I would not wish a debilitating disease on anyone, I had to laugh at the irony when I heard Reagan had Alzheimer's Disease(AD). To think that his "I do not recall" line during the Contra scandal may have been true! The idea of the President of the United States suffering the early stages of a disease causing dementia, confusion, irritability, and memory loss(1) during the very dangerous Cold War gives me the heebie jeebies.
Symptoms(6,7) Reagan and the Cold War aside, Alzheimer's is an appalling disease, affecting millions of people, with no known cure. Even the cause is not fully understood. Its symptoms are memory loss, confusion, poor judgment, personality changes, and loss of intellectual competence. The disease progresses, leaving victims unable to care for themselves. Patients usually die between 8 and 20 years after onset. The emotional strain of the victims who can feel the deterioration of their minds, as well as the family and friends who witness it are often devastating.
Pathology(2, 3) AD is characterized by the death of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter) secreting cells. The major pathological description of AD is Neurofibrillary tangles(NFTs). Though NFTs normally exist in elderly people, the high quantity and distribution in AD patients is unique. NFTs are fibrous tangles that grow out of the neuronal soma and extend into the dendrites. These tangles remain, even after the parent cell is killed and deteriorates. NFTs are composed of strands of insoluble proteins, twisted into a helix called PHFs of about 20 nm. These helixes are complexed with 15 nm strands of straight filaments. interestingly PHFs are composed of altered forms of microtubule subunits, though their form is distinct. Other characteristic attributes of an AD brain are Neuritic plaques, surrounded by enlarged axons, dendrites, and synaptic terminals. These plaques are formed from beta-amyloid, an abnormal protein.
Cause(4) The cause of AD is very controversial. Though the pathology can be recognized, the cause of AD...