Here's What We Think Alzheimer's Does to the Brain
Around 50 million people worldwide are thought to have Alzheimer’s disease. And with rapidly ageing populations in many countries, the number of sufferers is steadily rising.
We know that Alzheimer’s is caused by problems in the brain. Cells begin to lose their functions and eventually die, leading to memory loss, a decline in thinking abilities and even major personality changes. Specific regions of the brain also shrink, a process known as atrophy, causing a significant loss of brain volume. But what’s actually happening in the brain to cause this?
The main way the disease works is to disrupt communication between neurons, the specialised cells that process and transmit electrical and chemical signals between regions of the brain. This is what is responsible for the cell death in the brain – and we think its due to a build up of two types of protein, called amyloid and tau. The exact interaction between these two proteins is largely unknown, but amyloid accumulates into sticky clusters known as beta-amyloid “plaques”, while tau builds up inside dying cells as “neurofibrillary tangles”.
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Written by ANNA CRANSTON for http://www.independent.co.uk
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