Author: Camille Jessica Cunanan
Alzheimer’s Disease: The Playbook
For my Capstone Project, I will be focusing on Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). As I previously mentioned in “Reflection Blog 2,” AD has become so pervasive in the media and has detrimentally affected the lives of many individuals. It seems to be an enigmatic illness that has stumped many scientists, doctors, and patients. In addition, if an individual from the general public was asked to define exactly what AD is, they would probably say, “it’s the disease that old people get that makes you forget things.” I would like to change that. I personally do not know a lot about AD and this is my opportunity to learn myself and to inform others who are unfamiliar with the disease as well.
While forgetfulness is the main symptom of AD, there is actually a lot more to it. While AD is stigmatized to be prevalent in elderly population, many of those affected are actually considered to be middle-aged. Over 5 million Americans suffer from AD and approximately 200,000 patients are under 65 years of age (1). As a result, I have decided to narrow my research on early-onset and familial AD. To keep things organized, I have categorized my topics under three themes:
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
The purpose of my first theme is to inform my readers that AD is much more than “the disease that old people get that makes you forget things.” In fact, AD is chronic neurodegenerative illness. It can occur in various forms, such as the sporadic phase, which is the most common type. The average length of the illness spans 8–10 years, but initial symptoms are presented about two decades before diagnosis. The accumulation of a protein, called amyloid-beta, causes plaques in the neurons of the brain, which causes the cognitive dysfunction characterized by the disease. I will also explore the proposed mechanistic details of how amyloid beta plaques can result in AD.
My second theme will discuss the many proposed origins of Alzheimer’s Disease, from the molecular level to the cellular level. I will explore the heritable genes and mutations that have been related with disease development, like that of autosomal dominant genes that are passed on by generations. I will also investigate the proteins and smalls molecules that have been linked to severity, such as amyloid-beta and tau tangles. In addition, cellular processes, such as inflammation, have been found to have roles in disease progression of AD.
Although there are no known cures for Alzheimer’s Disease, my third theme will explore possible solutions that have been successful in detecting AD and managing or preventing the progression and severity of the disease. Because the solution for the disease remains a mystery, scientists and doctors have made strides in finding alternatives for identifying the genes linked to disease and obstructing the pathways related to disease development.
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