Saturday, July 3, 2010

In Simple Terms: Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease occurs when there is an increase in neuronal cell death in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is involved in learning, memory, as well as with emotional responses. If you are going to lose neurons in this part of the brain, this will obviously have an effect on your learning and memory. Brain imaging from Alzheimer’s patients shows atrophy (or degeneration) of the brain in areas that are involved in learning and memory.

Risk factors of Alzheimer’s include:

1. Age- risk increases after the age of 6o and doubles every decade after that

2. Genetics- if your relative has the disease, your chances of having it increase

3. Cholesterol-high levels of cholesterol are related to an increased risk

4. Injury- a head injury will likely increase the risk

5. Gender- this disease is more common in females than in males

6. Lack of mental stimulation

The critical and toxic molecule in Alzheimer’s disease patients is beta-amyloid, a protein that forms plaques in the brain. Beta-amyloid is formed when an Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) is cleaved into Ab-40 and Ab-42 (both beta-amyloids) by an enzyme called gamma-secretase. Of the two, Ab-42 is the toxic substance that forms plaques in the brain. An increase in Ab-42 causes degeneration of neurons in the brain. Drugs that inhibit gamma-secretase activity have been found to be effective in reducing the progression of Alzheimer’s.

The mechanism by which beta-amyloid induces death of neurons is through its interference with the reuptake of glutamate. Glutamate binds to the NMDA receptor in the brain, which in turn lets calcium ions flow into the channel. However, if too much calcium comes in, it induces activation of calcium-activated proteases, which leads to cell death. Drugs that inhibit NMDA activity (like Memantine) are also used as treatment for Alzheimer’s.

DNA damage within neuronal cells is also prevalent during the course of the disease.
Even though the Alzheimer’s brain increases DNA repair enzymes as well as BCL-2 ( a component that protects against cell death), the battle between damage and repair is ultimately won by the degenerative neuronal cells. Thus, there is more damage than repair occurring in the brain of these patients.

Here’s what YOU can do to slow this degenerative process:

1. Crossword puzzles. Sudoku. Anything that keeps your mind alive.

Learning and mental stimulation enhances BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), a neurotrophin that supports the cells and makes them ‘feel better’.

2. Take a hike.

Physical activity increases BDNF.

3. Eat healthy

Diets high in fats and sugars decrease BDNF activity.


Sleep enhances the activity of BDNF.

5. Quit stressing

6. Get your Vitamin E

Vitamin E slows the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Other interesting facts:

-Patients with rheumatoid arthritis that take Ibuprofen do not get Alzheimer’s because Ibuprofen affects the activity of gamma-secretase in such a way that it reduces the production of beta-amyloid.

-Bilinugals have a lower chance of getting Alzheimer’s

Reference Websites:

*Lecture at University of California, Irvine


Nova Rusma said...

i like playing sudoku! i have the book! haha
anyways, if you want to exchange link or banner, let me know =)

Rukhpar Mor said...

Hey Nova,

That's great. I tried playing sudoku, but no luck. It's too hard for me=(

MuslimFirst said...

Nice post Sis and I like it even more since I'm a medical student (one more year insha'allah then Dr.Bhaya ---> keep me in your du'a!)

You probably know of this ayah from the Qur'an that seems to be point to (I did post about this, but of course, I'm not sure how scholars feel about it) the existence of some condition that causes us to revert to a state that one could identify with a disease like AD - what do you think?

"O mankind! if ye are in doubt concerning the Resurrection, then lo! We have created you from dust, then from a drop of seed, then from a clot, then from a little lump of flesh shapely and shapeless, that We may make (it) clean for you. And We cause what We will to remain in the wombs for an appointed time, and afterward We bring you forth as infants, then (give you growth) that ye attain your full strength. And among you there is he who dieth (young), and among you there is he who is brought back to the most abject time of life, so that, after knowledge, he knoweth naught." [Surah Al-Hajj: 5]

Rukhpar Mor said...

InshAllah, you will make it through medical school..!!! Oh Allah, guide this brother and let him make it through his medical studies..Ameen!!

As for the Ayah, mashAllah, I didn't even see it in that context..But it could definitely refer to that...we need to have more Medical and Biology professionals interpret the Quran..I'm sure we will find a wealth of information...

I was thinking that it refers to those that attain knowledge yet don't choose to act on it (i.e. those that see the light of Islam but do not submit to Allah)..

But the more I read it, it could be referring to some sort of dementia...SubhanAllah..have you written a post about this on your blog yet?? I really want to read more of your thoughts on this=)

Thanks for sharing..!!

Serenity said...

Informative post!

Hah - I've tried Sudoku several times without luck!

Rukhpar Mor said...

Serenity, I can't even figure out how to play the game!!

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