Amyloidosis and Alzheimerâ€™s disease appear to be related, sharing some important clinical features and symptoms. To fully understand the connection between the two diseases, it is necessary to understand both amyloidosis and Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
What is amyloidosis? Essentially, amyloidosis is a disease caused by the buildup of abnormal protein deposits, amyloids, in the body. Amyloidosis is not a single disease; it is a group of diseases all characterized by amyloid buildup in body tissues.
Amyloidosis can be either localized (affecting only one part of the body) or systemic (affecting multiple body organs and tissues). Amyloidosis symptoms vary widely because the condition can affect so many different organs, including the:
Amyloidosis symptoms include:
- enlarged tongue
- joint inflammation
- loss of appetite
- shortness of breath
- weight loss.
Amyloidosis may be genetic, occur spontaneously or develop as a complication of other health conditions.
Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimerâ€™s Disease
Alzheimerâ€™s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting over five million Americans. Alzheimerâ€™s causes are unclear, but as the disease progresses, amyloid plaques build up between the brainâ€™s nerve cells, and abnormal tangles of a protein, called tau, also accumulate. The presence of amyloid plaques in the brains of Alzheimerâ€™s patients suggests that Alzheimerâ€™s and amyloidosis share a root cause.
Alzheimerâ€™s disease is a progressive disease marked by increasing cognitive impairment. At present, no cure for Alzheimerâ€™s disease exists, and most cases prove fatal within four to six years of diagnosis.
Initially, signs and symptoms of Alzheimerâ€™s disease are mild. People may forget words, where they put their keys, or struggle to remember a personâ€™s name, but not display clinically significant symptoms. As the disease progresses cognitive impairment becomes obvious to observers, and includes symptoms such as:
- becoming easily confused
- difficulty performing mental tasks
- forgetting names of spouse, children
- getting lost easily
- impaired ability to plan or organize
- lost awareness of their surroundings
- lost knowledge of current events
- personality changes
- reading without retaining information
- worsening incontinence.
During the final stages of Alzheimerâ€™s, patients lose the ability to speak. Muscle control is ultimately lost, including the ability to walk and sit without support.
Hope for the Future: Alzheimerâ€™s Disease and Medicine
At present, no curative treatment for Alzheimerâ€™s disease is available. Medicine and other treatments are strictly palliative, and intended to make the patient as comfortable as possible. Recent studies, however, provide hope for future treatment.
Researchers once thought that Alzheimerâ€™s occurred due to excessive production of amyloid-beta, the main protein found in amyloid plaques. However, some researchers suggest that the problem may not be an excess of amyloid-beta, but a deficiency of soluble low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (sLRP), a protein known to neutralize amyloid-beta.
In healthy people sLRP binds to amyloid-beta, rendering up to 90 percent of the protein inert and harmless. Alzheimerâ€™s patients, in contrast, have levels of sLRP that are 30 percent lower than in healthy individuals. The result is up to four times more amyloid-beta in the bloodstream.
The study theorizes that high levels of amyloid-beta in the bloodstream have a direct affect on amyloid plaque deposits in the brain. By flushing amyloid-beta out of the bloodstream with a synthetic form of sLRP, researchers believe they could improve memory and cognitive ability in Alzheimerâ€™s patients.
Preliminary tests on mice with signs of Alzheimerâ€™s have proven encouraging. Mice treated with the synthetic sLRP, dubbed sLRP-IV, showed improvement in both learning ability and memory than control mice. Blood flow in the mice brains was also improved.
The studyâ€™s future plans include developing and refining sLRP-IV for use in human clinical trials. If successful, there will finally be an Alzheimerâ€™s disease medicine that offers hope to patients.
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