The history of Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is a terrible problem that has been affecting those old in age for centuries. Most of the knowledge that we have about the affliction, we've learned within the past one hundred years. In this article, we'll give you a brief history of our knowledge of the disease, letting you know where our basic understandings of the disease came from and some of the advances that are being made today.

Alzheimer's disease was first discovered by a German doctor named Alois Alzheimer. The doctor discovered the disease when he was performing an autopsy on a woman who died of a mysterious, unknown form of mental illness. When Alzheimer studied the brain of the woman, he was shocked to find the presence of abnormal lumps of plaque and twisted fibers present in her brain that were unlike anything he'd ever seen before. These two odd parts of the woman's anatomy proved to be the basis for Alzheimer's disease, with the lumps becoming known as neuritic plaques and the fibers being called neurofibrillary tangles. To this day, the presence of these lumps and fibers are the way that doctors can confirm the presence of Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, these symptoms can only be seen via an autopsy performed after a patient's death.

One discovery that changed our knowledge of Alzheimer's disease is when Familial Alzheimer's disease was discovered. This subset of the disease occurs in approximately 10 percent of all patients with Alzheimer's, and it is a particularly aggressive form of the disease. It occurs early in almost every case, with most becoming afflicted with the disease before the age of 65. One of the most unfortunate aspects of Familial Alzheimer's disease is the fact that it can be passed down genetically from parent to child. If one parent has Familial Alzheimer's, the child's risk of getting the disease rests at an even 50-50. Familial Alzheimer's is the only type of the disease that can be traced to a genetic abnormality; late-onset Alzheimer's may appear randomly and without just cause.

1993 saw one of the first significant developments in fighting Alzheimer's disease. In this year, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States of America gave approval to the first drug designed to help Alzheimer's patients. Known as Cognex, the pill worked to increase the amount of acetylcholine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter that can help to slow the mind-damaging aspects of the disease. Within the next few years, 3 more drugs came out in order to increase acetylcholine levels in Alzheimer's patients. In 1997, scientists discovered that the use of Vitamin E and a Parkinson's disease drug known as Eldepryl were shown to be effective in slowing the mental decline of Alzheimer's patients, offering another solution when it comes to slowing the disease. The latest advancement came in 2003 when the FDA approved a radically different drug that is known as Namenda. It is used in order to protect the brain cells of an Alzheimer's patient by blocking the amount of Glutamine that is present in the brain, which can damage the cells.

More and more research is being conducted when it comes to finding possible solutions for those with Alzheimer's, and hopefully, the advancements that are being made will continue to help those with this devastating disease.

Alzheimer's Disease on the Web


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