Alzheimer’s, a disease for which there is still no treatment, raises many unanswered questions

What is Alzheimer’s?

First described by German doctor Alois Alzheimer in 1906, this “neurodegenerative” disease causes a gradual decline in cognitive talents till the affected person loses autonomy. Symptoms embody frequent forgetfulness, orientation issues, government perform issues (planning, organizing, time administration, summary considering), or language issues.

How many are affected by the disease?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), greater than 55 million individuals undergo from dementia worldwide, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most typical kind: it represents 60%-70% of dementia, or greater than 30 million individuals.

According to the WHO, the variety of individuals with dementia is anticipated to triple by 2050 because of a rise in instances in low-income nations. This explosion of instances will enhance the big social burden of the disease on sufferers’ households and well being care techniques.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are already main causes of incapacity and dependency among the many aged.

What are the explanations?

Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most typical type of dementia, its causes and precise mechanisms are still largely unknown.

Two phenomena are constantly noticed in Alzheimer’s sufferers. On the one hand, the formation of so-called amyloid protein plaques, which shrink and destroy neurons. On the opposite hand, a protein referred to as tau current in neurons accumulates in sufferers and causes the dying of the affected cells.

However, it is not clear how the 2 occasions are associated. It is additionally unknown what causes their look and to what extent they clarify the disease.

The long-held assumption that the formation of amyloid plaques is all the time the inciting issue of the disease and never the results of different mechanisms is more and more being questioned.

Are there efficient drugs?

No. This is primarily because of difficulties to find the set off elements of the disease. Despite many years of analysis, no medication as we speak can treatment or stop its onset.

The major advance for 20 years was the American laboratory Biogen’s therapy based mostly on the amyloid protein. It achieved some outcomes and was authorized by the United States authorities for some instances. However, its outcomes are restricted and its therapeutic curiosity is debated.

What are the chance elements? How to forestall?

According to the National Institute for Research in Health and Medicine (INSERM) in France, the primary danger issue is age: the likelihood of creating Alzheimer’s will increase from the age of 65 and will increase after the age of 80.

When uncontrolled in center age, cardiovascular danger elements – equivalent to diabetes and hypertension – are additionally related to a larger frequency of the disease, though the mechanism by which this is not but recognized. A sedentary life-style is one other danger issue, as are microcranial traumas present in sure athletes equivalent to boxers.

In the wrong way, finding out and stimulating skilled actions, in addition to an lively social life, appear to delay the onset of the primary signs and their severity.

In such instances, the mind advantages from a “cognitive reserve” that permits it to compensate for the perform of the misplaced neurons, not less than quickly. This impact could be associated to mind plasticity, i.e. the mind’s capability to adapt to circumstances.

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