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Alzheimer’s disease

History & future

    1. The first documented case of Alzheimer’s disease was a 51 year old woman, Auguste D, who was diagnosed by Dr Alois Alzheimer in 1901 with memory problems, language deficits and behavioural changes.
    2. Following decades of research, the typical pattern of symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and the disease progression is now better understood. It is clear that Auguste D presented at a fairly advanced stage of the disease and she was an atypical case because of her relatively young age.
    3. In the mid-1970’s, scientists discovered that levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is critical for memory, is decreased in people with Alzheimer’s disease. This discovery was an important initial breakthrough in the search for drugs to manage this condition.
    4. Two classes of medication are currently available to manage the symptoms: acetylcholinesterase (AChEI) inhibitors and NMDA receptor antagonist (memantine).
    5. There are an estimated 35.6 million people with dementia worldwide and the number is growing. The most significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is age. Most individuals with the disease are age 65 or over and the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s increases with age. Scientists know genes are involved in some cases of Alzheimer’s disease, although true genetic ‘familial’ Alzheimer’s accounts for less than 5% of cases.
    6. TODAY

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