Olivia Hawkins Mrs. Beck ENG 112 21 March 2017 Alzheimer’s Alzheimer’s was discovered by Alois Alzheimer. Alois was born in 1864 in Markbreit in the region of Bavaria which lies in southern Germany. Throughout school Alois excelled in math and science and furthered his education in medicine. He studied medicine in 1887 in Berlin, Aschaffenburg, Tubingen, and Wuzburg. Alois’ first job was in a state asylum in Frankfurt am Main. The asylum opened Alois’ eyes to the most necessary organ in the human body, the brain. He began studying the cortex of the brain and decided to broaden his knowledge of the brain and medicine. He continued his education in the psychiatry and neuropathology field. Alois, along with the help of Franz Nissl, published a series of books between 1907 and 1918. The series was titled Historic and Histopathological Studies of the Cerebral Cortex. However, Alois Alzheimer truly made his mark in medicine in 1906 with the help of Auguste D. Auguste D. was a patient of Alois and she demonstrated strange symptoms that left Alois dumbfounded. She had memory loss, suspicions of her family, alarming psychological changes, hallucinations, and she died at the young age of 55. When the autopsy was done it also showed bizarre results. Auguste showed a thin cerebral cortex, strange deposits around her nerves, and senile plaque. Senile plaque being especially strange, as that is usually only found in the elderly, and Auguste was not elderly by any means. Alois was also able to identify numerous, major
indicator of the disease. However, Alois was not able to do the work that he hoped. The resources and knowledge of the disease were not yet available. Since the discovery of Alzheimer’s breakthroughs have been made, as well as times when progress was at a complete standstill. Progress was not made until 1910 when Emil Kraepelin named the disease after Alois Alzheimer. Alzheimer’s was hard to diagnose in the mid twentieth century, or until cognitive measurement scales were invented. These helped to determine how much an elderly person had declined. However, the disease did not receive the momentum and funding it needed for several years. In 1974 Congress created the National Institute on Aging (NIA). This would provide research with the appropriate amount of funding. In two years, 1976, Robert Katzman published an article in the Archives of Neurology and named Alzheimer’s the most common form of Dementia. Alzheimer’s had started to become more public during the 1970s, but the disease needed more momentum and it was about to get the kick start it needed, publicly and scientifically. In 1980 the Alzheimer’s Association was founded. It still continues to support research and is the biggest nonprofit funder of the movement. November was declared the National Alzheimer’s Disease month in 1983. Scientifically, this time period produced huge breakthroughs. In fact, in 1984 and 1986 the beta-amyloid and tau protein were discovered in the plaque and tangles. Subsequently in 1987, the first gene of Alzheimer’s was identified. Also in 1987, the first drug trail was started. This drug targeted the symptoms of the disease. Alzheimer’s scientific and public breakthroughs continued throughout the 1990s as well. In 1993 a new gene was identified. Having this gene only raises a person’s likelihood of having the disease. Also in 1993, the first public drug was approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). However, a sad time came upon the American people in 1994 as the great
former president Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with the disease. He wrote a letter to the American people and Reagan stated, “In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clearer understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it.” Then in 1999, an “Alzheimer’s vaccine” was created and proved successful in a group of mice. At the turn of the 21st century, Alzheimer’s researchers and those affected by the disease were hopeful for more progress. In 2003 Genetic Studies began in which the organizations collected blood from families affected by the disease. The following year researches created compound B in Pittsburgh. It was supposed to attach to the beta-amyloid masses. In 2005, the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Journal was created. During the early 2000s there were many conventions and international programs started to make the world more aware of the disease. In more recent years, organizations that support Alzheimer’s have created ways to raise money while allowing people to have fun. In 2010 the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride was announced. This was a 66-day bike ride across the country to raise awareness. Also, in 2010 the first Alzheimer’s database was created, which had information on former and current patients and was available to any qualified researcher. Also, the Trialmatch was created and this allowed for patients to find the genetic trail that interested them most. However, the need for a cure became more evident in 2010 as it moved to being the sixth leading cause of death. New legislation and new research guidelines would yet again change the game. In 2011 president Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act to coordinate federal efforts to fight the disease and to develop a national strategic plan to address the Alzheimer’s crisis. Also, new guidelines were created for diagnosing the disease in 2011. In 2012 the first clinical trial for preventing Alzheimer’s was launched. This trial was for patients with a certain gene. In 2013 a
new gene was found that linked Alzheimer’s with the immune system. This link was something researchers had hoped for. However, similar to the sense of urgency felt in 2010, researchers found that the amount of deaths from Alzheimer’s was significantly higher than once thought. Overall, Alzheimer’s research has made tremendous progress since 1906. However, there is much more improvement to be made, and the need for a cure is needed more than ever. One may go throughout life showing proper brain function while carrying the trait for the dreaded Alzheimer’s. The disease generally begins its reign of terror on a patient’s brain around the age of 65. It manifests originally as forgetfulness or complications in everyday cognitive functions, but gradually grows into complete cognitive failure. Alzheimer’s early stages begin with the formation of plaque and tangles. Although, the effects of the disease are not detectable this early. The plaque is specifically known as amyloid plaque. These are masses of protein that damage signals being processed throughout the brain. The neurofibrillary tangles are another type of mass formed from damaged proteins. These hinder the nerve cells and causes them to die. However, it is still not known if these plaque and tangles are a side effect of the disease or the cause. The plaque and tangles begin to form and attack the cerebral cortex and frontal lobe in the early stage of the disease. The cerebral cortex and frontal lobe control patient’s memories, thoughts, and their ability to learn. The moderate stages of Alzheimer’s open the doors for diagnosis as the plaques and tangles thicken in the same areas of the brain. They also find their way to the Broca area of the brain which controls speech. The disease progressively gets worse and then develops into the severe stages. In the later years of the disease, patient’s cerebral cortex has irreversible damage, and the cells throughout the brain are dying causing the brain to shrink. The disease wreaks havoc not only on
the brain, but the patient’s abilities to live. Nearing the end of the patient’s life and as the growth of the disease quickens the brain loses almost all cognitive abilities. The grotesque disease transforms the patient’s brain and permanently damages their health and wellbeing. While there is no known cure of Alzheimer’s there are treatments that can slow the symptoms for six to twelve months. Alzheimer’s moves slowly when attacking the brain, by destroying everything it comes into contact with. However, the physical effects patients suffer with are just as terrible. The symptoms from the disease cause patients to suffer the loss of cognitive abilities, and they also suffer from strange behavioral symptoms. The behavioral symptoms cause families to place loved ones in care facilities because these symptoms are what makes the disease harder. As Alzheimer’s progresses patients begin to suffer from irritability as well as agitations that can result in episodes, even after something small. Patients also begin to show signs of depression and anxiety, even with no history of those mental illnesses. The symptoms result in patients receiving little to no sleep as well as hallucinating. Although, there is medicine for these symptoms or ways to control the episodes, watching a loved one suffer through this type of pain is heartbreaking. Cognitive abilities are stripped of patients when Alzheimer’s begins to take hold of their life. When symptoms first begin to appear, patients are struck by memory loss even when dealing with small information. Patients also have trouble figuring out how to solve something in steps as well as figuring out the time it takes to do a task. As patients progress into their disease, they begin to have trouble remembering recent events. This is due to the fact the parts of their brain that deal with learning and memory are being attacked. Patients personalities change, and episodes may start soon for some. Not only do
patients start to misplace words and thoughts while participating in simple conversations, but they begin to misplace things as well. Everyday items are lost, and patients have difficulty finding their way around. As the patient begins to slip further into the disease, life just becomes more difficult. Their personality changes as a whole, and they are suspicious of family and friends. Even more significant memory loss occurs in the later stages of the disease. They forget big things like birthdays and addresses. The disease will also cause serious confusion, as patients may mistake strangers for family members. This is also a point in the disease when patients need help with simple activities such as bathing, clothing themselves, and many suffer from incontinence. Incontinence is the inability to control bladder or bowel movements. When patients have completely fallen subject to the disease, it is incredibly difficult to perform any type of activity. Patients become immobile and their muscles become incredibly stiff. They also need around the clock care to perform daily activities, as they are no longer able to do anything for themselves. Patients can no longer hold conversations or communicate correctly. At this point the disease has taken over the patient’s life completely. Alzheimer’s is slow in progression, but the effects are disturbing and irreversible. The causes of Alzheimer’s have left doctors and researchers dumbfounded and confused since it was first discovered in 1906. However, there are a few ideas and proven theories doctors have tested. Doctors believe that family history and certain genes are connected to the disease, as well as abnormal deposits in the brain. One tested theory is immune system problems, as that at one point, was linked together. Early onset Alzheimer’s is thought to be linked to genetic problems. However, the genes found in early and late Alzheimer’s are completely different. Age is another huge factor in the progression and cause of Alzheimer’s. Researchers are finding as
age increases neurons are harmed and the brain may become inflamed in some ways. These could all contribute to Alzheimer’s and its progress. Although, there is no known cause for the disease, researchers are testing new theories and finding different causes, to hopefully one day know the exact cause. Alzheimer’s is a confusing disease, solving one of its mysteries only creates another. However, there are myths floating around about the disease that have been disproven by researchers and doctors. One myth is that memory loss is normal in the elderly. There is a difference between usual memory loss of something new, and Alzheimer’s. The disease causes awful memory loss and confusion, due to the dying cells in one’s brain. Although some say people can survive Alzheimer’s, this is not true. Alzheimer’s disease is fatal. It is a slow disease that strips someone of their identity and their ability to live. Alzheimer’s is not only found in the elderly. The disease can strike as early as 30 and is referred to as early onset Alzheimer’s. Although it is believed that environmental factors may cause Alzheimer’s, daily contact with aluminum does not cause the disease. Similar to the aluminum myth, flu shots and aspartame do not cause Alzheimer’s. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that was believed to cause the disease, but the FDA disproved this theory. Flu shots and other vaccinations were once believed to cause the disease, but they actually create a lower risk. Silver dental fillings also became a huge worry in the 1990s as a cause of Alzheimer’s. However, the FDA and other worldwide organizations disproved this theory. The most upsetting myth, is that there are medicines to slow the progress of the disease. Although, there are medicines to slow the progress, they only slow the progress for six to twelve months, and only work for half of the patients. Treatments for Alzheimer’s have transformed and changed since the disease was discovered, and while there are ongoing clinical trials, there are still medicines that doctors can
prescribe to patients. In the brain, neurons are connected at synapses where they communicate. At these connection points, there are chemicals created called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters carry information to cells all over the brain. However, Alzheimerâ€™s interrupts this process but there are different medicines that can help the neurotransmitter process. Future treatment options may help cure the disease. Current treatments can slow the progress and hide symptoms. However, patients and participants are needed to take part in clinical trials to help eradicate Alzheimerâ€™s.
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Analysis of the disease, including a timeline and current research and treatments.