Sunday, 18 March 2012

Many Mysteries of Alzheimer’s Disease unlocked by Genetics - Liam Qi (42910006)

[1]Ever since the discovery of a main component contributing to Alzheimer’s disease by Alois Alzheimer in 1906, our limited understanding of genetics has hindered our understanding of this disease. With the aid of advancement in other main scientific areas like neurology and biochemistry, scientists have been able to draw a map linking certain genes and their effect on Alzheimer’s disease.  Already, the scientific community is optimistic that in the future if the disease is diagnosed early, before the symptoms arise, then maybe Alzheimer’s disease can be treated. Dementia is the progressive loss of memory and their cognitive abilities. There are many various diseases that can give a person dementia; however, the most prevalent disease is Alzheimer’s disease, which contributes to about 60%-70% of dementia cases. Therefore, a cure for Alzheimer’s disease will cure most cases of dementia.

[2]In order to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, we must firstly look at the DNA of people who have contracted the disease. The Beta amyloid () and tau proteins are the main contributor to brain apoptosis. Firstly the Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) is produced at the ribosome, and when it reaches the transmembrane, two enzymes act upon it. This  produces the Aβ. In most cases, the Aβ does not lead to Alzheimer's disease; however, there are many other molecules that can attach to the Aβ making it aggressive and dangerous. Examples of such molecules are ApoE and clusterin which have a high tendency to affect the brain. Once inside the extracellular space the Aβ becomes aggressive and turns into oligomers and fibrils which can poison cells and cause inflammation of brain cells. Like , tau proteins are also harmless in most cases. It is a vital protein in stabilising microtubules and is very abundant within the neurons of the central nervous system. However, the Aβ can render these tau proteins defective and this causes the microtubules to collapse and the neuron will be destroyed.

The understanding of the specific genetic sequence that produces these Beta Amyloids will certainly aid in the discovery for a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and even perhaps a cure for dementia. By being able to identify the cause, scientists are able to now work to stop or slow down the production of aggressive Beta Amyloids. It is important that we address Alzheimer’s disease now as about 30 million people worldwide suffer from this disease and this number is expected to quadruple by 2050. That is 120 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in 2050. Alzheimer’s disease may soon become one of the most prevalent global health issues as the estimation of 120 million people is most likely an understatement as this number does not include people with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, the estimated cost of care for dementia patients was around $172 billion in the US alone. A treatment or a cure for Alzheimer’s disease would greatly benefit the world, and research into the human genome is vital in understanding the inner workings of Alzheimer’s disease and from that we may find a cure.

  • Bitan G.Kirktiadze M.Lomakin A., Vollers S.Benedek G., Teplow D., 2002, Amyloid β-protein (Aβ) assembly: Aβ40 and Aβ42 oligomerize through distinct pathways,, accessed 15/3/12

[1] Holtzman D., Morris J., Goate A., 2010, Alzheimmer’s Disease: The Challenge of the Second Century,, accessed 15/3/12
[2] Holtzman D., Morris J., Goate A., 2010, Alzheimmer’s Disease: The Challenge of the Second Century,, accessed 15/3/12

1 comment:

  1. Having an idea of the stages of Alzheimer's disease can help caregivers and family cope with it better.

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