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    Being old is a challenge, especially that age is a risk factor for dementias”diseases which bring about impairment of memory and cognition. A recent study has indentified a novel protein which is linked to Alzheimer's disease.

    What Is Alzheimer's Disease?

    Alzheimer's disease is a neurological problem caused by the death of brain cells, further causing cognitive decline and memory loss. This dementia is of the neurodegenerative type, meaning that the disease can get progressively worse as time goes by. Alzheimer's disease is often caused by death of brain cells, a reason why this is referred to as a neurodegenerative disease. There may be progressive brain death over time. A person with Alzheimer's disease may have shrinkage of brain size over time with fever nerve cells and fewer connections within the brain. There are also plaques and neurofibrillatory tangles in the brain. These plaques are formed by the build-up of protein called beta-amyloid. These plaques are found within dying cells of the brain while the tangles are within brain cells. These tangles are formed by disintegration of a type of protein called tau.

    Not all people are prone to develop Alzheimer's disease; rather only a few of them may do so if they have risk factors. Those who have a high likelihood of contacting the illness include those who are older, those who have a family history of Alzheimer's disease, those who are positive for a certain gene called the apolipoprotein E or APOE gene, and those who are females. Those who are prone to blood vessel disease such as those with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are also more likely to acquire Alzheimer's disease. Those with low educational and occupational attainment are also prone to this neurodegenerative disorder. Also, those with prior head injuries, those with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and those who had undergone estrogen hormone replacement therapy are also prone to develop Alzheimer's disease.

    Initially, early-onset Alzheimer's disease may present between the ages 30 and 60 years. This may be due to inherited genes that run in the family; however early onset Alzheimer's disease is uncommon. The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include decline in ability to remember and learn new information. Oftentimes these patients ask questions repetitively, misplace personal belongings, forget events and appointments, and get lost on a familiar route. These people may also have impairments of reasoning or of exercising judgement by having poor understanding of safe risks, inability to manage finances, poor decision making and inability to plan complex activities.

    These patients may also have impairment of visual or spatial abilities and may have eyesight problems. They may also fail to recognize familiar objects and operate simple tasks. These persons may also have difficulties in dressing. They may also have impairments in reading, speaking or writing and may have speech, spelling or writing errors. Patients with Alzheimer's disease may also experience changes in personality and behaviour changes such as less interest, agitation, mood changes, loss of empathy and compulsive behaviour. These symptoms may have a gradual onset of months to years and the level of cognition may worsen.  Alzheimer's disease may bring about memory loss later on and then have mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

    New Protein in Alzheimer's Disease

    A recent study has discovered a new protein linked to Alzheimer's disease. This protein, called Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) is said to be one of the culprits of the neurodegenerative disease. The researchers who come from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School and the Agency for Science and Technology (A*STAR) say that this discovery may help researchers understand how the protein becomes abnormal in Alzheimer's disease and may pave way for future drug discoveries. The study was able to show that APP controls growth and maturation of brain cells which are necessary in normal brain functioning. APP does this by regulating a target known as microRNA-574-5-p. MicroRNAs are small molecules that influence the expression of human genes. The human body has many microRNAs to regulate the expression of different genes for proper cellular functions.

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