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Antidepressant May Slow Down Alzheimer’s Disease Symptoms

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Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia which can cause death of brain cells, further leading to memory loss and cognitive decline. This neurodegenerative dementia can be mild at first but can progressively worsen as times goes by. Patients with Alzheimer's disease often have a shrunken total brain size due to fewer nerve cells and connections. On autopsy of patients with Alzheimer's disease, plaques and tangles may be seen on nerve tissue. These plaques may form due to the buildup of protein called beta-amyloid; thus they may also be called amyloid plaques. The brain neurons may contain tangles which are formed due to the disintegration of tau, another protein.

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There are some risk factors which are associated with Alzheimer's disease, some of which are preventable while some are non-modifiable. Those which are non-modifiable are age, family history, genetics, and female sex. Alzheimer's disease is likely to occur among older people especially those who are aged 65 to 85 years old. Those who have a family history of the disorder also carry a higher risk. Persons who have a certain gene called the apolipoprotein E or APOE gene are also at risk for having Alzheimer's disease. More women are affected by this neurodegenerative disease.

On the other hand, preventable risk factors include diabetes, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure levels, low educational or occupational attaintment, previous head injury, sleep disorders and estrogen replacement therapy or other hormonal replacement therapies.

Alzheimer's disease can occur, though rarely, between the ages of 30 to 60 years old, a condition known as early onset Alzheimer's disease. This type of dementia usually affects people who have a family history of it. Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include difficulty in taking in and remembering new information such as misplacing things, repetitive questions, forgetting events and getting lost. There may also be impairments to exercising judgement and reasoning as manifested by poor decision making, inability to manage finances and inability to plan activities in sequence. People with Alzheimer's may also lead to impairments of visual recognition, inability to orient clothing to the body and impairment in doing simple tasks. There may also be changes in personality and behaviour and problems in speaking, reading and writing. These symptoms may develop gradually over months to years and may lead to progressive worsening of cognition. The most common presentation of Alzheimer's disease is memory loss especially affecting areas of learning and recalling new information.

There are three basic stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The first stage is pre-clinical with no signs and symptoms. The second stage is mild cognitive impairment while the third stage is dementia.

Citalopram and Alzheimer's Disease

A recent study has shown that citalopram, a commonly prescribed antidepressant, can reduce production of Alzheimer’s brain plaques. These findings are published May 14 in Science Translational Medicine. In this study, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Pennsylvania have found out that the antidepressant citalopram stopped the growth of plaques in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. They also found out that in young adults who were cognitively healthy, a single dose of the antidepressant lowered by 37 percent the production of amyloid beta, the primary ingredient in plaques. The researchers further concluded that antidepressants appear to be significantly reducing amyloid beta production.

In this study, researchers gave citalopram to older mice with brain plaques. They soon found out that citalopram stopped the growth of existing plaques and reduced the formation of new plaques by 78 percent. In the second experiment, the scientists gave a single dose of citalopram to 23 people ages 18 to 50 who were not cognitively impaired or depressed. Samples of spinal fluid taken from the participants over the next 24 hours showed a 37 percent drop in amyloid beta production.

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