How much do you know about Alzheimer’s Disease? If a friend or a family member has it, you may have looked into it in the hopes of finding some way to help. After all, it can be very painful to watch a loved one’s vitality stolen away by a slow, incurable, debilitating illness. Alzheimer’s is more than just memory loss. It’s more like the loss of a mind, a personality. Victims lose their independence as a result of irritability and changing personalities, a regression of cognitive function, and of course the loss of their most cherished memories. It’s awful.
Unfortunately, not enough is known about Alzheimer’s to manufacture a cure. As it stands, the best medical knowledge can offer are strategies to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Even then, there are so many uncontrollable factors in the way that it can seem like an uphill battle. Age, family history, and so many other things can hurt one’s chances, and once it does appear, there’s no turning back. The damage is slow, but inexorable, unstoppable. We know Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain, but what if there are other factors that have been overlooked at play?
6. The Brain
Physically, Alzheimer’s is associated with the destruction of the brain tissue. The logical conclusion, therefore, is that it’s an illness that starts in the brain. To be fair, there are findings that suggest such. For example, people with Alzheimer’s have been known to have high levels of certain metals, such as aluminum, in the brain. However, there is recent research suggesting that the rest of the body may have more to do with Alzheimer’s disease that previously thought. This is because some of the conditions that are prevalent in Alzheimer’s disease, namely Amyloid-beta proteins, are found in other serious illnesses.
5. Amyloid-beta proteins
Amyloid-beta proteins are the primary component in the protein plaque found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Ordinarily, they are helpful to the body; for example, it is suspected that they can play a role in preventing oxidative damage, as well as exhibit anti-microbial activity. However, there is not enough information to know about how helpful they are. However, in the case of Alzheimer’s patients, a lot of research indicates that these proteins can build up and become a neurotoxin to the brain, causing the damage in the form of lesions that then progresses into Alzheimer’s disease.
4. The Body
So where does the rest of the body come in? Well, the amyloid-beta proteins that play a role in Alzheimer’s disease are also thought to be responsible for at least two other illnesses. These two illnesses are Lewy Body Dementia (DLB), and Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM). Because of the presence of the same proteins known to cause problems in Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the similar correlations between the diseases themselves, it stands to reason that perhaps there is a common link that doesn’t necessarily begin with the brain. IBM, for example, doesn’t seem to affect the mind at all.
3. Inclusion Body Myositis
As mentioned earlier, Alzheimer’s disease slowly erodes the mind, robbing the patient of their memories, their self-sufficiency, their peace of mind, and their quality of life. Inclusion Body Myositis does to the body what Alzheimer’s does to the brain. People with this ailment will experience their muscles growing weaker and weaker. At first, it will manifest as a bit of extra difficulty with otherwise commonplace tasks. However, it progresses to the point where mobility becomes difficult, then impossible without the aid of a cane, and eventually, a wheelchair. General fatigue and injuries due to loss of balance are not uncommon.
2. Dementia with Lewy Body
One might think of Lewy Body Dementia as the hybrid between Alzheimer’s and IBM. After all, it includes many of the symptoms of dementia that Alzheimer’s brings on (though they do not manifest in the same order) – the memory loss, difficulty with cognitive tasks, etc., but it also comes with some of the loss of motor control and the muscle weakness associated with IBM. For example, bodily movements may be stiff and uncoordinated, similar to Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, the patient may also suffer from hallucinations. It is not uncommon to have difficulty sleeping, and trouble with swallowing (dysphagia).Related: 9 Serious Illnesses Beyond Cancer
1. The Connection
The excessive buildup of plaques which are highly composed of amyloid-beta proteins is a factor that is present in incarnations at least two of these diseases. In the case of IBM, it seems that the amyloid-beta triggers an immune response that then attacks the muscles, which leads to the weakness that characterizes the disease. This theory is somewhat supported by research where a vaccine to counter potentially associated retroviruses worked to help protect mice from IBM. While there’s certainly a long way to go, but there is other research suggesting the ability of Amyloid-beta to migrate, which sheds more light.
This evidence of ‘migration’ comes from a study in which healthy mice were kept in physical contact with mice who produced significant levels of amyloid-beta proteins. In the end, the healthy mice developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. If this indeed is a case of migration, then it’s not entirely unreasonable assumption that the Amyloid-beta proteins could migrate through a single body. After all, amyloid-beta is not produced only in the brain; as evidenced by its presence in manifestations of IBM and perhaps DLB, there are other parts of the body that produce it, such as muscles, platelets and blood vessels.
With all that being said, there is still simply too much that is conjecture at this time. Perhaps the links uncovered among these diseases and amyloid-beta proteins are clues into the nature and origin of Alzheimer’s. Perhaps it can start in the brain or the body, or at the very least, start in the brain based on a bodily trigger. If it is a matter of whole-body amyloid-beta protein presence, perhaps we can develop a more effective means to identify and treat this before Alzheimer’s appears. Only time and more research will be able to uncover those answers for us.Related: 11 Predictors of Alzheimer’s You Didn’t See Coming