Saturday, October 23, 2010

TIME: Alzheimer's Unlocked

After years of research and study, the Alzheimer's disease continues to be shrouded in fear and mystery.We have yet to fully comprehend the extent of damage and loss that this disease causes ,over all of us, not just those who are the sufferers. Trial upon trial of treatments and vaccines have proved innefective in fighting this disease and have just made things worse for the test subjects. It is classsified as a degenerative brain condition that causes loss of memory and dementia. Over the long term death is imminent.

As it has been repeated by countless scientists for many generations: There is no cure. Although therapies that supposedly battle the condition and reverse it over time do exist, they are not effective in any way. All they can do at most is delay the the onset of memory loss. There isn't even a definitive test for Alzheimer's.

But all that is about to change, at least according to the neurobiologists that are studying the disease at this very moment. This mental condition was thought, until recently to be caused by the build-up of protein-based plaques in the brain called amyloid. Cellular debris such as dead or dying neurons can also form leading to impaired neurological transmissions and reduced brain activity. Agents, devised by doctors, have been produced in order to eliminate this plaque and prevent it from occuring ever again. Alas, the chemicals have been fraught with failure upon failure. It was concluded after many tests that the plaque was not in fact the only cause of Alzheimer's. Some other factor or factors must be involved as well.

"We spend $5.6 billion a year funding cancer studies, $1 billion a year heart disease ... and $500 million to study Alzheimer's" Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic for Alzheimer research.
In order to properly study Alzheimer we must focus upon the genes and their irregularity. If the particular gene that codes for Alzheimer can be isolated and studied then a much humanity will have a much better chance of stopping this essence-ridding disease. A potential protein that codes for a gene is apolipoprotein E which in certain forms may promote the formation of amyloid. Another possible treatment would be preventing the breakind down of the protein tau, which stabilizes the neuron and the microtubules within. The bottom line is that for now, Alzheimer may be diagnosed before the first symptoms have even made themselves visible.

A large amount of the article was not as expected, dedicated to the science behind the disease, but rather to the many people who are experiencing it at this precise moment. I find it touching and moving that such people struggle to defy nature and win the struggle for their minds. Included in my article are the many accounts of Alzheimer sufferers.

What I found most definitive about this paper was that according to many studies, a larger number of people is affected by Alzheimer than by cancer. Surely that cannot be true. I will check this theory and report back next time.

UPDATE: Just discovered that in fact this theory is correct. I'm pretty much flabbergasted to tell the truth. It is however only by an extremely small margin (cancer - 24 million recorded cases and Alzheimer - 26 million on average),9171,2025638,00.html,9171,2025637,00.html


Maciek said...

Nice job Lucas.