Alzheimer’s has been a mysterious disease since the turn of the 18th Century, when it was originally discovered. Considered to be a condition that fits into the dementia category, Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by physical changes in the brain that deteriorate brain function, cognitive ability, and memory in a certain pattern. People who are at least 65 years old are most often affected, however there are also early-onset cases.
The progression of Alzheimer’s happens over decades and since the brain is such a complicated organ, it has been difficult for scientists to study.
The brain of the patient that had the first named case of Alzheimer’s disease was found to have amyloid (protein) plaques and tao tangles (tangles of fibers) within it. These abnormalities have long been considered by medical professionals to be one of the main causes of the disease, however recent studies suggest that the true cause could be another condition that happens initially, and this abnormal tissue growth may be a secondary symptom.
Scientists came out with new research this year that highlights chronic inflammation as one of the possible causes, based on the body’s tendency to kill off cells or change the genetic code within cells when inflamed for a long period of time. Alzheimer’s is considered a genetic disorder, meaning that it is caused by mutated genes. This also means that the disease can be inherited from a family member. Because the gene mutation that chronic inflammation causes can get worse as the body ages, it makes a good parallel to the fact that Alzheimer’s usually sets in at an older age.
Although inflammation seems to be a viable candidate, many studies still need to be conducted to see if anti-inflammatory drugs ease the progression or onset of Alzheimer's and dementia.
Currently there are studies being conducted to find out if we would be able to use an existing anti-inflammatory drug as a treatment or preventative measure. If one is found to work, it would be more accessible to obtain as well as cheaper for both the patient and developers.
At this point in time Alzheimer’s is incurable and lifelong, however if we are able to pinpoint the cause of this condition we will be able to prevent the onset of the disease and will be well on our way to finding a cure.