What is Alzheimer’s and why do people get dementia

(ORDO NEWS) — Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common diseases on earth. It was known to the ancient Greeks, but can modern medicine finally defeat dementia and restore a healthy mind to a person?

Alzheimer’s disease, or senile dementia, is the most common form of dementia, named after the German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer, who first described this type of pathology. Doctors understand dementia as an intellectual disorder, expressed in a decrease in cognitive activity, as well as a loss of previously acquired knowledge and practical skills.

Unlike mental retardation, which is a congenital defect, dementia is acquired dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is considered “the disease of the elderly”, but its scale is truly staggering: ten years ago, the total number of cases was estimated at 26.6 million, and by 2050 the number may rise to 100 million!

How it all starts

Memory impairment and a general decrease in brain activity have traditionally been associated with age. This is partly true, but age itself cannot be a factor affecting the physiology of the brain. The fact is that over time, amyloid is deposited in the brain tissues – a complex organic complex consisting of proteins and polysaccharides. This, in turn, is associated with a violation of protein metabolism in the human body: at some point, the protein ceases to be efficiently consumed and participate in metabolism, clogging the tissue with “dead weight”.

Amyloid deposits are formed in two versions. The first, which is best known to the public due to advertising of drugs, is amyloid plaques , which first appear in the hippocampus (part of the limbic system of the brain), and then spread to all brain tissues. Due to the excess of protein and polysaccharides, calcium begins to accumulate in the tissues. Calcifying, cells lose the ability to perform their functions and die.

The second option, discovered by Alzheimer himself, is neurofibrillary tangles . These are also protein deposits, consisting of the so-called. tau squirrel . It is usually extremely useful and participates in the stabilization of microtubules, a kind of “scaffold” for a living cell. Due to the fact that tau proteins are insoluble (otherwise the liquid medium of the cell would simply destroy them), they also quickly clog tissues and turn into ordinary organic waste. The bottom line is the death of brain cells from starvation.

Hypotheses of the onset of the disease

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Oddly enough, but modern medicine is still arguing about the causes and mechanisms leading to the development of this disease, known back in the days of ancient Greece. At the moment, there are a number of hypotheses on the basis of which doctors create principles of therapy that inhibit the progression of the disease:

Cholinergic hypothesis

One of the striking symptoms of the disease is a deficiency of acetylcholine , a neurotransmitter, due to which nerve cells exchange electrical impulses with each other and with other tissues. A decrease in the synthesis of acetylcholine leads to impaired nervous and, as a result, motor activity. It is logical that the first decision on the part of medicine was the creation of drugs that restore the previous level of acetylcholine in the body. Alas, they turned out to be ineffective: despite the fact that the symptoms became less pronounced, this did not affect the progression of the disease.

Amyloid hypothesis

At present, it is this hypothesis that arouses the greatest interest among scientists. The reasons for the accumulation of deposits of beta-amyloid in brain tissue are still unknown, but its destructive effects on mental activity have been confirmed by clinical studies. The destruction of protein plaques in the brain is a very laborious and delicate process, and therefore, to date, no drugs have been synthesized that would effectively cope with this task. Of course, work in this direction is carried out from year to year, but, unfortunately, none of the experimental drugs has passed clinical trials.

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Tau hypothesis

As mentioned, one of the common causes of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of tau protein. The reasons for this are also still unknown, but the hypothesis itself is recognized as relevant and is being actively studied along with amyloid.

Hereditary hypothesis

Despite the fact that dementia is an acquired disease, some studies have identified a genetic predisposition to it. If your relative or relatives suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, then your chances of falling into dementia after reaching retirement age are probably very high. The development of pathology is “blamed” for violations in 1,14,19 and 21 chromosomes. It is noteworthy that a failure in the work of chromosome 21 also leads to the development of Down’s disease, which has similar degenerative manifestations in brain tissues.

Incurable disease?

Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease cannot be completely healed at this time. This does not mean, however, that medicine is completely powerless: complex therapies are aimed primarily at slowing the progression of the disease and alleviating its symptoms. This allows the patient to maintain a solid memory and sound mind for as long as possible, but sooner or later dementia will take its toll.


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