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Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most prevalent and deadly diseases among the elderly. It is often most troubling for those taking care of loved ones with the disease because patients lose most of their independence. Patients with the disease increasingly become more child-like and very unpredictable in their actions as the Alzheimer’s disease progresses. Alzheimer’s ultimately ends in death. Right now there are not any potential for treatments or cures for Alzheimer’s disease.
Alz.org reports, “Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.” The disease affects about 5.3 million Americans of all ages. Currently, it is untreatable, incurable or preventable.
Alzheimer’s disease is devastating for those families affected. It is often described as losing a loved one before they have actually passed away. Alzheimer’s disease is also devastating from an economic standpoint. Alzheimer’s and other similar diseases will cost $226 billion in medical expenses this year alone. This is money people could be spending elsewhere.
Nevertheless, it is also one of the most widely researched diseases. There are always new studies being done on the subject because very little has been known about the disease. Furthermore, there is still no cure. However, there are two recent studies that have uncovered new information regarding the cause and potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
A recent study done at Duke Institute for Brain Sciences looked at a link between a person’s immune system and Alzheimer’s disease. These Alzheimer’s patients had plaques and tangles built up in their brains. Plaques and tangles are problematic proteins. Plaques refer to the proteins beta-amyloids, and tangles are proteins called tau.
The study found that the immune system of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease is always working to repair and heal the body. This usually only happens after an infection has been fought and the patient is recovering. The problem with this phase continuing is that it causes nutrient deprivation, which in turn causes the problematic proteins.
A second study focused on the link between sleep disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. It found that elderly patients that had sleep problems also had trouble remembering. They also found a link between sleep disorders and problematic beta-amyloid proteins. However, this study did not determine which came first, the sleep disorder or the troubled proteins.
These were two separate studies, but their findings can be put together to draw interesting conclusions. They both concluded that the protein, beta-amyloid, is a key component in the development of the disease. They both can lead to potential treatments or preventions for Alzheimer’s disease.
In the study looking at the immune system, the scientists used the drug difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) to treat mice prone to the disease. Senior editor of Now It Counts-NiC Magazine Buck Wargo explains, they started treatment before signs of Alzheimer’s disease emerged and managed to reduce the amount of plaques built up in the brain and improve memory. The key is to prevent the neurons in the brain from dying because once they are gone, they cannot return.
The sleep disorder study suggests that better sleep might help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Perhaps, if sleep disorders are caught and treated early, patients would not develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life. This should influence the way physicians handle their patients with sleep problems in the future. There may be even greater risks lurking.
These studies have paved the way for future developments in the potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Finding links between the two and making connections can help fight Alzheimer’s disease and may prevent its proliferation in the future. If there are ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, action needs to be taken early and in an efficient manner.
By Megan Hellmann
Huff Post-New Alzheimer Disease Makes Connection to Cause
Alphr- Poor Sleep Could Contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease
Alz.org-2015 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures
Photo Courtesy of Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Great Lakes Chapter’s Flickr page-Creative Commons License
Photo 2 Courtesy of Rick Eh?’s Flickr page-Creative Commons License