Thursday, March 06, 2008

Alzheimer's Disease, Medications, and Treatment Methods

Often we joke around about getting Alzheimer’s disease when we forget simple things like why we came into a room, or where our keys are. Thankfully, for most of us, Alzheimer’s disease is simply a scapegoat for our forgetfulness. However, for some, simple moments of forgetfulness will turn into something much more significant, a monster that swallows all of their memories, alters their personality, and leaves them in a fantasy world.

Alzheimer’s disease has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. In the United States alone, five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. This is even more alarming when you consider the fact that seventy million plus baby boomers are beginning to reach retirement age.

Consider this, one eighth of all individuals over sixty five are affected by the disease, and this number increases to one out of every two over the age of eighty five. If no cure is found for this disease, experts forecast a dismal future in which Alzheimer’s disease will affect over one hundred million individuals by the year 2050.

Thankfully, researchers have been working on an Alzheimer’s cure for the past twenty-five years, and although they have not found a cure for Alzheimer’s disease the research has led to many medications currently used to slow the progress of the disease.

Even now, new medications are being developed to target amyloid protein plaques and fragments (which form between, and on, brain nerve cells causing them to deteriorate). Scientists believe these disease modifying medications might prevent further deterioration of brain cells and, in the long run, reverse the damage that has been done.

Some researchers are working on vaccines to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by fortifying the body’s immune system with synthetic antibodies designed to fight toxins in the brain.

There are many potential treatment methods in development, partly because experts do not all agree on the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, some startling new research conducted by Northwestern University’s Cognitive, Neurology, and Alzheimer’s disease Center in Evanston, IL, discovered a connection between Alzheimer’s disease and insulin levels in the brain. In fact, the study indicated that toxic proteins within the brain eliminate insulin from nerve cells (insulin is important to learning and memory development).

Could Alzheimer’s disease be a third type of diabetes? No one knows that answer for sure, but this certainly opens the door for a vaccine capable of rendering these unnatural toxins within the brain harmless, or perhaps the ability to treat Alzheimer’s disease with medication similar to those currently used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

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