Alzheimer’s, the best known dementia

published on Thursday, June 2, 2022 at 5:34 p.m.

Alzheimer’s disease is the best known and most common dementia, and there is currently no cure for it.

It sees the patient irretrievably lose his memory and his ability to judge, during an evolution that generally took several years.

There are at least 30 million people in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This figure remains inaccurate because it is not easy to distinguish Alzheimer’s disease from other dementias, such as vascular disease.

Like other dementias, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the major contemporary public health problems as people with dementia lose their independence, placing a heavy emotional burden on their loved ones and funding health systems.

This is all the more so in the countries where the population is the oldest, and therefore the main developed countries, with the disease occurring widely among those over 65 years of age. It also affects women more than men.

Compared to other dementias, the disease, first described by the German physician Alois Alzheimer in the early twentieth century, is distinguished by its mode of action, care este double.

The first of these two phenomena, which are commonly found in Alzheimer’s patients, is the formation of protein plaques, called amyloids, which compress the neurons and eventually destroy them.

The second comes from another type of protein, called Tau, which is present in neurons. In patients, they form clusters that also end up killing the affected cells.

But it is not yet clear how these two phenomena are related. It is also largely unknown what causes their appearance and even how they explain the course of the disease. Thus, the long-held hypothesis that the formation of amyloid plaques is a trigger and not the consequence of other mechanisms is increasingly being questioned.

Consequence: Despite decades of research, no treatment is currently available to cure or prevent the disease.

The main breakthrough of 20 years, a treatment from the American laboratory Biogen, which targets amyloid proteins, has achieved some results and has been approved this year by some US authorities. Several effects are limited and therapeutic interest is not unanimous.

Another debate concerns the prevention of the disease, since it rarely carries a hereditary component.

Several risk factors – about a dozen – are currently listed for all dementias. The most common are deafness, low education, smoking, depression, and isolation.

The authors of a 2020 baseline study estimate that 40% of dementias could therefore be prevented and delayed by playing on these symptoms. But this figure is disputed by other researchers who find this reading too simplistic.

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