(MENAFN – The Conversation) The idea of seeing a loved one decline and lose their ability to recall their most treasured memories is devastating. However, it is a fact of life for an increasing number of Canadians. A group of experts on population health convened by the Alzheimer Society of Canada in 2015 estimated thatnearly one million Canadians will have Alzheimer’s disease in 2031 .
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and no treatment has yet been found, despite the best efforts of researchers. This is what drives the massive funding of clinical trials searching for a way to stop the disease. Despite hundreds of drug trials however, there have been no new treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 2003. It’s clear that a better understanding of the disease is needed, as well as a re-evaluation of how treatment is developed.
So, what makes the search for a treatment so difficult?
As a first year doctoral student in psychology at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) inMarc-André Bédard’s laboratory , I use nuclear imaging to investigate Alzheimer’s disease. My research aims to better understand changes ina neurotransmitter called acetylcholinein people with early Alzheimer’s disease. Acetylcholine is a chemical that allows neurons to communicate with other neurons, muscles, glands and so on.
The main drugs prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease respond to the degeneration of neurons responsible for the transmission of acetylcholine through the brain. The neurons that transmit it are found in the Meynert basal nucleus, a small area located at the front of the brain. The death of these neurons is believed to bethe cause of the attention and memory disordersfound in Alzheimer’s disease. The drugs help compensate for the loss of these neurons by increasing acetylcholine transmission, butthey have little impact on disease progression .
A hypothesis under fire
Currently, the search for treatments that can slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease is mainly based on theamyloid cascade hypthesis . According to this theory, the disease begins when the body does not clean amyloid proteins properly, leading to a build-up of microscopic plaques in the brain.
The amyloid cascade hypothesis to explain the causes of Alzheimer’s disease is being increasingly criticized.
These plaques accumulate for decades, even before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear. They then cause the dysfunction of tau, another protein found in neurons, producingneurofibrillary tanglesinside the neurons resulting in their death. …read more
Source:: Daily Times