Alzheimer’s DiseaseAlzheimer’s Disease is a progressive and irreversible brain disease thatdestroys mental and physical functioning in human beings, and invariably leadsto death. It is the fourth leading cause of adult death in the United States.

Alzheimer’s creates emotional and financial catastrophe for many Americanfamilies every year. Fortunately, a large amount of progress is being made tocombat Alzheimer’s disease every year.To fully be able to comprehend and combat Alzheimer’s disease, one must knowwhat it does to the brain, the part of the human body it most greatly affects.Many Alzheimer’s disease sufferers had their brains examined. A large number ofdifferences were present when comparing the normal brain to the Alzheimer’sbrain.

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There was a loss of nerve cells from the Cerebral Cortex in theAlzheimer’s victim. Approximately ten percent of the neurons in this region werelost. But a ten percent loss is relatively minor, and cannot account for thesevere impairment suffered by Alzheimer’s victims.Neurofibrillary Tangles are also found in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims.They are found within the cell bodies of nerve cells in the cerebral cortex, andtake on the structure of a paired helix. Other diseases that have “pairedhelixes” include Parkinson’s disease, Down’s Syndrome, and Dementia Pugilistica.Scientists are not sure how the paired helixes are related in these verydifferent diseases.

Neuritic Plaques are patches of clumped material lying outside the bodies ofnerve cells in the brain. They are mainly found in the cerebral cortex, but havealso been seen in other areas of the brain. At the core of each of these plaquesis a substance called amyloid, an abnormal protein not usually found in thebrain. This amyloid core is surrounded by cast off fragments of dead or dyingnerve cells. The cell fragments include dying mitochondria, presynapticterminals, and paired helical filaments identical to those that areneurofibrillary tangles. Many neuropathologists think that these plaques arebasically clusters of degenerating nerve cells. But they are still not sure ofhow and why these fragments clustered together.

Congophilic Angiopathy is the technical name that neuropathologists have givento an abnormality found in the walls of blood vessels in the brains of victimsof Alzheimer’s disease. These abnormal patches are similar to the neuriticplaques that develop in Alzheimer’s disease, in that amyloid has been foundwithin the blood-vessel walls wherever the patches occur. Another name for thesepatches is cerebrovascular amyloid, meaning amyloid found in the blood vesselsof the brains.Acetylcholine is a substance that carries signals from one nerve cell to another.

It is known to be important to learning and memory. In the mid 1970s, scientistsfound that the brains of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease containedsixty to ninety percent less of the enzyme choline acetyltransferase(CAT), whichis responsible for producing acetylcholine, than did the brains of healthypersons. This was a great milestone, as it was the first functional changerelated to learning and memory, and not to different structures.Somatostatin is another means by which cells in the brain communicate with eachother. The quantities of this chemical messenger, like those of CAT, are alsogreatly decreased in the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus of persons withAlzheimer’s disease, almost to the same degree as CAT is lost.Although scientists have been able to identify many of these, and other changes,they are not yet sure as to how, or why they take place in Alzheimer’s disease.

One could say, that they have most of the pieces of the puzzle; all that is leftto do is find the missing piece and decipher the meaning.If treatment is required for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, then theAlzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association(ADRDA), a privately funded,national, non- profit organization dedicated to easing the burden of Alzheimervictims and their families and finding a cure can be contacted. There are morethan one hundred and sixty chapters throughout the country, and over onethousand support groups that can be contacted for help.

ADRDA fights Alzheimer’son five fronts 1- funding research 2- educating and thus increase publicawareness 3- establishing chapters with support groups 4- encouraging federaland local legislation to help victims and their families 5- providing a serviceto help victims and their families find the proper care they need.Of all the scientists to emerge from the nineteenth and twentieth centuriesthere is one whose name is known by almost all living people. While most ofthese do not understand this man’s work, everyone knows that its impact on theworld of science is astonishing. Yes, many have heard of Albert Einstein’sGeneral Theory of relativity, but few know about the intriguing life that ledthis scientist to discover what some have called, “The greatest singleachievement of human thought.”Science

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