If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you want to soak up as much information about it as possible. What causes it? What are the symptoms? How long does it last? Are there any treatments? Are we close to a cure?
Alzheimer’s is currently the sixth leading cause of death in America. While that may seem fairly bleak, in recent years, many important developments in the research and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease have been made. We at Canaan Home Care are hopeful that strides continue to be made by the dedicated teams of doctors, scientists, and researchers devoted to pinpointing the cause and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s.
In this post, we will take you through a historical timeline and then discuss some of the most recent Alzheimer’s research developments.
For more information on caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, check out this related article: Alzheimer’s Home Safety Tips.
History of Alzheimer’s Disease
1906 – Discovery
German physician Alois Alzheimer (called a “pioneer in linking symptoms to microscopic brain changes” by the Alzheimer’s Association) presented the case of “Frau Auguste D.”, a 51-year old woman whom he had been seeing as a patient for about five years. Dr. Alzheimer had been observing Auguste’s severely declining memory loss, cognitive impairment, paranoia, and other psychological changes.
After Auguste died, Dr. Alzheimer performed an autopsy of her brain and noted dramatic shrinkage, as well as other abnormalities in and around nerve cells.
1910 – Named
German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, who worked with Dr. Alzheimer, named the condition Alzheimer’s disease in his book Psychiatrie.
1915 – Dr. Alzheimer Died
Dr. Alzheimer died in 1915, never suspecting that his encounter with Auguste D. would one day touch the lives of millions and ignite a massive international research effort. Scientists recognize Dr. Alzheimer not only for his groundbreaking characterization of a major disease but also as a role model. He set a new standard for understanding neurodegenerative disorders by establishing a close clinical relationship with his patients and using new scientific tools to determine how symptoms related to physical brain changes.
(source: Alzheimer’s Association)
1931 – Electron Microscope
The electron microscope was invented by Germans Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska. This microscope, which can magnify up to one million times, became popular for medical and scientific research after WWII, enabling scientists to study brain cells much more closely and effectively.
1968 – Cognitive Measurement
Researchers developed the first validated measurement for cognitive and functional decline in older adults, “paving the way to correlate the level of measured impairment with estimates of the number of brain lesions and the volume of damaged tissue.” (source: alz.org)
1974 – National Institute on Aging founded
1980 – Alzheimer’s Association founded
Alzheimer’s Research Developments
1984 – Beta-amyloid
Researchers George Glenner and Cai’ne Wong identified beta-amyloid, the primary component in Alzheimer’s brain plaques and a trigger of nerve cell damage.
1986 – Tau protein
Researchers discovered that tau protein is a key component of tangles, the second pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease and another trigger of nerve cell degeneration.
1987-1993 – Gene Discovery
In 1987, researchers discovered the first gene associated with rare, inherited forms of Alzheimer’s disease. This gene on chromosome 21 codes amyloid precursor protein (APP), the parent molecule from which beta-amyloid is formed.
Then in 1992, Presenilin-1 (PS1) and in 1993, Presenilin-2 (PS2) were discovered. These genes with mutations were found to cause inherited Alzheimer’s.
1993 – Risk Factor Genes
A gene called Apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE-e4) was discovered, the presence of which increases one’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s later in life.
Also in 1993, the FDA approved the first drug, tacrine (Cognex) to treat some of the mild to moderate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Over the following decade, four more drugs would be approved for the different stages of Alzheimer’s.
Since the millennium, more studies have been done and advancements made in technology, pharmaceuticals and more, which have contributed to the early diagnosis, intervention, and treatment of Alzheimer’s. We anticipate even more improvements in the coming years in the fields of medicine and science to combat the progression of this disease.