Alzheimer's Disease

Essay by curb64University, Bachelor's October 2006

download word file, 4 pages 3.0

Alzheimer's disease is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that leads to major abnormal alterations of the brains structure and functions. This results in a loss of complex cognitive functions such as memory, judgment and reasoning, pattern recognition, movement and coordination. The disease usually begins to onset after the age of sixty; however cases among younger people are not unknown. Alzheimer's has also been linked to genetic factors; variations in three autosomal dominant have been identified that account for some cases of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Currently, the only definitive way of diagnosing Alzheimer's disease must occur after death during an autopsy where the two characteristic changes of the brain; amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles can be itentified. There are major changes in brain structure and function associated with the disease but it is these changes in the brain that can lead to other abnormal changes such as atrophy of the cerebral cortex; the area of the brain responsible for most intelligent functions, and decreased levels of the neurotransmitters acrtylcholine, norepinephrine, somatostatin and serotonin.

Alzheimer's disease is currently the greatest cause of dementia (deterioration of intellectual faculties) in the elderly.

The major development that leads to Alzheimer's disease is the build up of amyloid plaque. Amyloid plaque is term referring to the clustering the peptide (protein) amyloid beta (Aß). The presence of amyloid plaque can be detected post mortem and is integral in the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The amyloid beta protein is itself a segment of a much larger protein known as amyloid precursor protein (APP). APP is a normal neurone membrane protein that is synthesized within the cell, transported to the cell membrane then later broken down. There are two major pathways of enzyme cleaving involved in the breakdown of amyloid precursor protein. It is only one of these pathways...