A recent clinical trial on the hit show “Grey’s Anatomy” that was being conducted to find the cure to Alzheimer’s inspired me to write this blog post because I really don’t know much about this disease other than the fact that patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s suffer from dementia and therefore, wanted to know more about the causes of this disease.
Alzheimer’s is a “progressive and degenerative disease” and is the most common form of dementia. The name for this disease comes from the doctor who first identified the disease: Dr. Alois Alzheimer. According to his research there are two main features to this disease: Plaques and Tangles
Plaques are made of a protein already consisting within the brain called A-beta. A patient with Alzheimer’s generally has more of this protein that accumulates in the brain. They accumulate in such high numbers that it makes it difficult for the enzymes in the brain whose job is to get rid of this protein overwhelming the whole system. Over time as they accumulate they condense into plaques that are toxic. Researchers believe that these A-beta proteins somehow change the genetic code of the tau protein thereby promoting development of “Tangles”.
Tangles as mentioned before are made of tau protein. These are located in the nerve cells and perform key duties such as self-repair of the nervous system as well as maintaining a transport system within the nerve cells. However after these are modified by the A-beta protein they tend to pile up and create tangles. By creating these tangles the transport system of the cells is disrupted and therefore the cell dies.
The toxic plaques along with the tangles leads to the slow degeneration of cells in the brain, thereby causing the brain to shrink as seen in the following picture.
I hope to look into more research that has been done on the purpose of the A-beta protein as well as other further research into how doctors might proceed to deal with this disease in the future. Until then I will direct you to the following link that has more information on Alzheimer’s Disease.