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The Nature of Alzheimer's Disease

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Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementiainternationally (Liu,2013). Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease in which major changes occur in neurological pathways, such as chronic neuronal loss and neuroinflammation (Liu, 2013). Due to the nature of Alzheimer’s disease scientists have limited knowledge of its pathology and etiology, as a result, there is currently no cure or effective prevention (Liu, 2013).In recent decades, stem cell therapy has emerged as the most promising treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders(Liu, 2013). There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, as a result, it remains a prominent health problem in society. It is estimated that about 50 million people worldwide suffer from dementia and this number is expected to double every 20 years (“Alzheimer’s& Dementia Causes, Risk Factors,” 2015).

The incredible advances made in medicine of the years has made it possible for people to live longer lives, the proportion of individuals 65 years and older has increased significantly (Knickman, Snell, 2002). In countries such as Canada, there is a greater number of people 65 years old and older than 15 years old and younger (“More Canadians are 65 and over than under age 15,” 2015). The aging demographic makes the search for a cure a prominent issue, as Alzheimer’s disease mainly affects those 60 years and older (Knickman, Snell, 2002).

However, there has also been a dramatic increase in the number of diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (Knickman, Snell, 2002). The aging population and increased portion of the world suffering from Alzheimer’s disease has placed a large financial burden on each country (“Dementiastatistics,” 2017). Dementia is one of the most expensive conditions in society (“Alzheimer’s & Dementia Causes, Risk Factors,”2015). It is estimated that the cost of health care and long-term care for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease cost the United States 259 billion dollars in 2017(“Dementiastatistics,” 2017). The cost of health care is projected to reach as high as 1.1 trillion dollars by the year 2050(“Dementia statistics,” 2017). Scientists do not know the cause of Alzheimer’s disease but predict that it develops as a result of multiple factors, rather than a single cause (Abdel-Salam, 2011). In a brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease, the pathology is not fully understood (Abdel-Salam,2011).

However, there are characteristic features of the neurodegenerative disorder, “neuronal death caused by plaques of extracellular amyloid-ß (Aß) peptides and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) of abnormally hyperphosphorylated tau proteins” (Lee, Oh, Lim, 2016). As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, neural loss results in extreme degradation of the affected regions of the parietal, temporal and frontal cortex (Tang,2012). However, ventricles that contain cerebrospinal fluid in the brain become enlarged, at this stage an individual’s short-term memory begins to decline (Tang,2012). As the disease progresses judgment becomes impaired, change in behavior, emotional outbursts and in the final stages individuals lose bodily control and long-term memory is impaired (Tang,2012).

Current progress with stem cell research offers promising results for new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease(Liu, 2013). Using stem cells to treat Alzheimer’s disease, is based on the strategy of utilizing stem cells to replace neurons that are lost during the atrophy (Lee, Oh, Lim, 2016). Through“transplantation or in situ regeneration of lost neurons and key proteins that support them;” researchers hope to rebuild the damaged central nervous system, helping to stop the decline of cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients (Lee, Oh, Lim, 2016). This stem cell technology depends on the types of stem cells being used; the four types of stem cells being used are neural stem cells (NSCs), mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), embryonic stem cells (ECSs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) (Lee, Oh, Lim, 2016).

Each type of stem cell has unique features that can be manipulated in a variety of ways to make them an ideal candidate for stem cell therapy (Lee, Oh, Lim, 2016). Alzheimer’s disease remains a serious health problem for modern society and without a cure, threatens to become a bigger issue to the nature of our demographic aging. Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of people each year and the number of diagnoses is projected to rapidly increase, creating a significant financial burden on society. Stem cell therapy holds the potential to cure Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorder such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease (Liu, 2013).

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