“We remember their love when they can no longer remember.” – Unknown
Are you concerned about getting a form of dementia like Alzheimer’s? Are you considered a high-risk candidate because it runs through your family? If so, your risk of contracting Alzheimer’s is between two and four times as high as general public.
Statistics show that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases.
These numbers are scary. However, there is hope. Before we look at the research that has provided recent hope to the world, let’s consider a comprehensive definition of Alzheimer’s and what it does to the brain.
Alzheimer’s and its impact on the human brain?
Alz.org defines Alzheimer’s disease as a type of degenerative brain disease that gets worse over time. In layman’s terms, it’s a silent disease that destroys the neurons in the part of the brain that is responsible for thinking, learning, and cognitive function or memory. It is also a relatively slow-progressing disease, with brain degradation beginning about 20 years before there are noticeable symptoms.
The healthy adult brain contains over 100 billion neurons, each with long, branching extensions, forming connections with other neurons. Synapses occur between the neurons, facilitating the transfer of information between the neurons via the synapse or small gap between the neurons. This creates the “cellular basis of memories, thoughts, sensations, emotions, movements, and skills.”
When an individual contracts Alzheimer’s, small deposits of protein fragments or plaque, beta-amyloid and tau accumulate on the outside and inside of the neurons respectively; preventing the transfer of information between the neurons, and ultimately destroying the neurons.
The basics of human genetics
The ncbi.nlm.nih.gov website states that “almost every human trait and disease has a genetic component, whether inherited or influenced by behavioral factors” such as exercise, stress, and anxiety.
Additionally, these components also modify the body’s response to external factors, like severe weather events, wars, and global pandemics such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Succinctly stated, the human genetic material, as found in the DNA, provides the instruction set on how to direct the essential functioning and direction of activities. And, the same genetic material also determines an individual’s predisposition to certain diseases like one of the dementias, diabetes, and one of the many cancers.
The possibilities of a cure for Alzheimer’s
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Up till now, all medical professionals could do for Alzheimer’s patients is to treat the symptoms and to keep these patients as comfortable as possible for as long as required. This treatment includes maintaining mental function for as long as possible, managing behavioral symptoms, and slowing the disease’s progression down.
However, the good news coming out of the Stanford University School of Medicine is that researchers have identified both the gene variant that puts people at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the other gene variant that protects these high-risk people from Alzheimer’s debilitating effects.
What does this mean for people who are predisposed to contracting Alzheimer’s?
Billions of US dollars have already been spent on finding a successful treatment and cure for Alzheimer’s, to no avail. Thus, these findings will help drug developers focus their research, testing, and clinical trials for successful treatments that will both delay the disease’s progression, and ultimately find a cure for Alzheimer’s.
As described above, Alzheimer’s is a scourge that has no cure. All medical professionals can hope to do is improve the sufferers’ quality of life and attempt to slow down the progression of the disease. The isolation if this new genetic component gives hope to researchers, medical professionals, sufferers, and their family members.