Genetic Mutations & Gene Therapy

 What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Alzheimer's disease is a permanent brain disease that diminishes memory and reasoning skills, and inevitably immobilizing the individual from carrying out simple chores and tasks. Alzheimer's most often appears in people above the age of 60, and while estimates may vary, it is suggested that as many as 5.1 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease (Citation 14).  

Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia among older people. Dementia is the loss of logical reasoning and remembering skills. It ranges from severity, but it can reach the extent in which it corrupts the way an individual behaves so much, that special help will be required for that individual (Citation 14). Alzheimer's disease has no cure nor treatment.


 Alzheimer's Signs and Symptoms

• Memory loss

• Difficulty solving problems

• Difficulty completing familiar tasks

• Confusion with time or place

• Trouble understanding visual/spatial issues

• Problems with words in speaking or writing

• Misplacing things

• Decreased or poor judgement

• Withdrawal from work or social activities

• Changes in mood and personality

• Movement difficulties (in severe cases)

                           (Citation 17)


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 "As Alzheimer's disease progresses, neurofibrillary tangles spread throughout the brain (shown in blue). Plaques also spread throughout the brain, starting in the neocortex. By the final stage, damage is widespread and brain tissue has shrunk significantly" (Citation 15).


                                   (Citation 16) 

 Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

Mild Alzheimer's Disease

While in the stage of mild Alzheimer's disease, changes among the individual are clear. Other than the fact that the individual's memory worsens, he/she will also tend to get lost more often and have difficulty accomplishing simple tasks such as handling money. Personality and mood will eventually begin to change. Alzheimer's disease is most often diagnosed in this stage (Citation 14).

Moderate Alzheimer's Disease

Damage in the brain gets worse at this stage. People begin having difficulty recognizing others who are a part of their daily lives, such as family and friends. They will tend to have problems completing tasks requiring several steps as well as learn new things. Behaving impulsively as well as having hallucinations and paranoia may also be factors that occur during this stage (Citation 14).

Severe Alzheimer's Disease

This is the final and the worst stage of Alzheimer's disease. A person's brain is almost completely shut down. The person will remain in bed most of the day and will rely completely on others to care for him/her. Brain tissue shrinks and people with Alzheimer's this severe often lose their communication skills completely (Citation 15).

 Treating Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease, although a very common disease, is complex. No official cure or even treatment has been found for Alzheimer's disease. However, there are certain medications that help to temporarily reduce the affects Alzheimer's has. It can help to maintain mental function and manage behavioral symptoms. Multiple types of medication is required to even do something as simple as that (Citation 14).


Maintaining Mental Function

Four medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat some symptoms of Alzheimer's. Donepezil (Aricept®), rivastigmine (Exelon®), and galantamine (Razadyne®) are used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's (donepezil can be used for severe Alzheimer's as well). Memantine (Namenda®) is used to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer's. These drugs work by regulating neurotransmitters (the chemicals that transmit messages between neurons). They may help maintain thinking, memory, and speaking skills, and help with certain behavioral problems. However, these drugs don't change the underlying disease process, are effective for some but not all people, and may help only for a limited time (Citation 14).

Slowing, Delaying, or Preventing Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease research has developed to a point where scientists can look beyond treating symptoms to think about addressing underlying disease process. In ongoing clinical trials, scientists are looking at many possible interventions, such as immunization therapy, cognitive training, physical activity, antioxidants, and the effects of cardiovascular and diabetes treatment (Citation 14).

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