Above: Image © istockphoto.com/Tanica
Did you know? There are treatments that can reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, such as memory loss. But despite the availability of drugs like Aricept and Exelon, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s.Alzheimer’s disease is a mental disorder with symptoms that include difficulty thinking, remembering, and making decisions. It normally develops in people over the age 65 years, but around 5 percent of those affected are younger. Although there are treatments that reduce certain symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, scientists have yet to find a cure.
One important discovery made by medical researchers is that Alzheimer’s develops when microglia, a type of brain cell that help protect the brain and spinal cord from pathogens (infectious agents), stop functioning properly. Specifically, microglia are responsible for phagocytosis, or “cell eating”. They seek out and destroy bacteria and viruses that can leave deposits associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
“With aging, but especially with Alzheimer’s, the microglia become less and less effective at doing their job, so the brain environment becomes more toxic. There is a lot more inflammation, which isn’t good for neurons, and there’s a lot more amyloid accumulating,” explains Katrin Andreasson of the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Do you know? Research suggests that a healthy lifestyle earlier in life can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This includes a healthy diet, not smoking, not drinking too much, regular exercise, and participating in activities that stimulate the brain.In particular, the receptor (protein) EP2 may bind to a molecule on microglia and interrupt the cell’s normal function. As a result, microglia cannot clear out the amyloid-beta (A-Beta) peptide, which are 36-43 amino acids responsible for formation of plaques in the brain.
These plaques can block synapses and inhibit the communication between neurons, another type of brain cell. Experiments on mice have found that by stopping the action of EP2, the process can be reversed and the buildup of plaques in the brain can either be cleared or prevented.
Researchers hope that a drug targeting the EP2 molecule could prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease.
About dementia (2015)
Alzheimer’s society of the UK
General information on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, including causes and treatments.