20 January, 2018
Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death in the America, has received lots of attention since its discovery. After extensive research, scientists learned the deadly effect this Alzheimer’s has on the brain. Doctors have studied, research, and tested Alzheimer’s endlessly since it was discovered. The few drugs that have been introduced to try and minimize this disease have changed the way doctors and patients look approach its symptoms. Alzheimer’s disease has caused a multitude of deaths in the United States, but has also helped make some revolutionary discoveries about genetics and medicine.
Alzheimer’s, is a specific type if dementia severely damaging nerve cells and tissue in the brain, affecting 5.5 million people each year. The disease slowly attacks its victim by hardening fragments in the brain into shriveled bits in between nerve cells. This causes memory loss increases severity overtime. Scientists believe Alzheimer’s disease spreads by preventing part’s of cells from performing its job. “They scientists are not sure where the trouble starts…(but they do know that) backups and breakdowns in one system cause problems in other areas. As the disease spreads, one’s cells aren’t able to do carry out their jobs and eventually die, causing irreversible changes in the brain.” (alz.org) While there is still not lots of information on this disease; knowing even the slightest bit of information lets medical professionals get an idea on medical advancements for the future. Alzheimer’s is commonly found in people over the age of 65 with common signs of infrequent memory loss of small details in one’s life. “The damage initially appears to take place in the hippocampus, the part of the brain essential in forming memories. As more neurons die, additional parts of the brain are affected, and they begin to shrink. By the final stage of Alzheimer’s, damage is widespread, and brain tissue has shrunk significantly.” (nia.nih.gov) Knowing this information, scientists are able to look into the causes of Alzheimers and educate themselves on the disease itself. Knowing the biology of Alzheimer’s allows scientists to do extensive testing; and, hopefully, in the long run find a cure for the disease.
Alzheimer’s was discovered by a German physician Alois Alzheimer in 1906 who had a patient with unusual memory loss. It wasn’t until 1987 when pharmacists started their first trial of tacrine, the first drug specifically targeting symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. With the drug trial came extensive research on their results—leading to their revolutionary discovery that same year. “This gene on chromosome 21 codes amyloid precursor protein (APP), the parent molecule from which beta-amyloid is formed. Chromosome 21 is also the chromosome of which those with Down syndrome have three copies rather than two. Many individuals with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer’s disease, often as young as their 30s and 40s” (alz.org). This discovery helped to identify possible relative diseases to Alzheimer’s. Knowing this information is crucial to get a thorough understanding of what the disease is, and ultimately leading into how to treat it. As more discoveries were made, scientists became more invested in devoting time to this disease. Hundreds of researchers globally worked together to perform a multiple analysis of genetic studies to identify genetic variations linked with the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. “The studies revealed 20 genetic variations associated with increased risk, 11 of which had not been linked with Alzheimer’s before. Some of the newly identified genetic variations are thought to be specific to the immune system, adding to mounting evidence of a role for the immune system in Alzheimer’s disease” (alz.org). This study was tremendous to the advancements of Alzheimer’s because it identified the genetic components, along with the relation to one’s immune system. Starting in 1906, there has been astounding advancements and accomplishments to find a cure for this deadly disease.
Innovations of Alzheimers disease help implement the science to address remaining today. Over the last 30 years, researchers have made remarkable progress in understanding healthy brain function and what goes wrong in Alzheimer’s disease. The five FDA approved drugs allow scientists to make observations on the affects these medications have with Alzheimer’s. Because of the lack of knowledge needed to have a cure for the disease, people pharmacists are only able to create a medication that would slow down the symptoms. But there is still hope. “…new drugs take years to produce from concept to market—and…drugs that seem promising in early-stage studies may not work as hoped in large-scale trials so it is critical that Alzheimer’s and related dementias research continue to accelerate” (alz.org). Currently, the medicine for Alzheimers only helps symptoms of the disease. With the technology available, scientists and pharmacists has helped lessen symptoms but not prevent or cure the disease itself.
In the future, it is expected to have more advanced technology accessible to the industry that can help further examine Alzheimer’s. Currently, scientists are working on multiple trial drugs to try and revolutionize medicine for Alzheimer’s disease. “…Many of the new drugs in development aim to modify the disease process itself, by impacting one or more of the many wide-ranging brain changes that Alzheimer’s causes. These changes offer potential “targets” for new drugs to stop or slow the progress of the disease. Many researchers believe successful treatment will eventually involve a “cocktail” of medications aimed at several targets” (alz.org). This idea of a “cocktail” of medicines for one diagnosis was later adopted for other diseases like different types of cancers and AIDS. Because doctors are putting in so many hours of work, there will be new advancements to medicine and the disease. Hopefully, these drugs in the future will lower annual death rates caused by Alzheimer’s. The future of Alzheimer’s looks to be much more positive due to the current innovations and medical studies.
Alzheimer’s disease has helped to make revolutionary discoveries about medicine that not only will help Alzheimer’s, but will help a multitude of other severe diseases. Technology advancements have proven that this disease causes a shrinkage in the brain due to genetics that have been passed down in families. Since 1906, doctors have worked made incredible discoveries on genetics, the brain, and how they affect one another. The way Alzheimer’s reacts to the drugs currently released will eventually lead to new observations and a clear path for a cure. Hopefully, the future will have more people working together to find a cure for such a deadly disease. After all, no one ever thinks about how great of a gift it is to think until it’s taken away from you.