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Surprising Alzheimer's Facts and Discoveries of the Last Decade

Alzheimer's disease has become a household name for many folks. The idea of slowly losing your memory is very scary. This is particularly painful for family members of affected individuals.

But new developments show that the scientific community is making progress toward a cure. Read on to learn more Alzheimer's facts and the progress we've made so far.

Early 20th Century

Alzheimer's disease gets its name from a German physician by the name of Alois Alzheimer.

Dr. Alzheimer performed an autopsy on a patient with dementia. During the procedure, he discovered changes to the brain such as shrinkage and odd deposits near nerve endings. He believed these were responsible for his former patient's symptoms.

Further developments in the scientific community allowed Alzheimer's research to continue. For example, the electron microscope allowed for more in-depth brain research. Scientists also developed a way of assessing mental decline in the elderly. 

The 1970s-1980s

In 1976, scientists discovered that Alzheimer's was by far the most common form of dementia. Four years later, scientists founded the Alzheimer's Association. This organization helps advocate for patient care and further research into the disease.

In 1984, George Glenner and Caine Wong were able to identify one of the main substances that make up brain plaques and Alzheimer's patients. This component is called beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is a protein that likely triggers the damage done to nerve cells in Alzheimer's patients. 

Two years later, scientists also identified the tau protein. Like beta-amyloid, tau proteins are markers of Alzheimer's. They are likely involved in the nerve damage associated with Alzheimer's, too.

In 1987, the first Alzheimer's drug trial began. In that same year, researchers discovered a gene on Chromosome 21 that could be the root of hereditary Alzheimer's disease. 

The 1990s

Alzheimer's research continued in the 1990s, and in 1993 the first FDA approved Alzheimer's drug was released.

A year later, President Ronald Reagan announced that he had Alzheimer's disease. This brought even greater levels of public awareness to the disease. 

In 1995, researchers were able to insert a human gene that causes Alzheimer's into a mouse. This allowed them to create a mouse with Alzheimer's symptoms. These Alzheimer's mice were instrumental in future research on the disease.

The 2000s and Beyond

In the 2000s, screening and testing for Alzheimer's in patients who had not yet developed symptoms increased. In 2004, an imaging agent called PIB was developed. PIB latches onto beta-amyloid deposits in the brain and is detected later using a pet scan.

The Alzheimer's community has grown significantly since the 2000s. Organizations and events like the International Society to Advance Alzheimer's Research and Treatment and the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease have started to take off. 

Clinical trials and other treatment plans have continued to develop in the 2000s. Differences in the male and female brain and the two sex's hormone levels have also been investigated. Now, scientists better understand how Alzheimer's differs between male and female patients. 

Continued Discovery of Alzheimer's Facts

Thanks to the hard work of researchers in the Alzheimer's field, funding for Alzheimer's research has also increased since the early 2000s. The amount that we know about the disease grows each day as new Alzheimer's facts come to light.

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