- National Institute on Aging. “Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet” Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet. Published on 22 Oct. 2019.
- “Alzheimer’s disease”. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350453. Published 2019.
- Howland, J., “New Alzheimer’s drug to be submitted to FDA for approval” Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/new-alzheimers-drug-to-be-submitted-to-fda-for-approval/. Published 22 Oct. 2019.
Some older adults experience the loss of memory and cognition as the years progress, and their longevity increases. Sadly, older adults that are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease experience an, “irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks” (National Institute on Aging, 2019). The reality is that the neurology and the pathology of the brains of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease are experiencing impairments in the ability to communicate, to think, and to reason. Biological impairments then lead to psychological impairments that affect the actions and behaviors of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease, and then biological and psychological impairments combined lead older adults with Alzheimer’s disease to experience sociological impairments which affect their ability to live a daily life individually and with other people. Unfortunately, “experts suggest that more than 5.5 million Americans, most of them 65 or older, may have dementia caused by Alzheimer’s” (National Institute on Aging, 2019). As I have stated in the past, with the trajectory of the longevity of older adults to rapidly increase by 2030, and with the projection of the number of older adults to surpass the number of children within the United States, I do anticipate that there will be an increase in the number of older adults that experience Alzheimer’s disease. With this said, however, let’s evaluate the current causes and treatments of Alzheimer’s disease. Then, I can give more insight into the “new” drug that is awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Medical professionals are stating the notion that genetics, lifestyle factors, and environmental factors influence the onset of symptoms as well as the qualities of lives in older adults with Alzheimer’s disease. First let me give my insight into the neurology and the pathology of the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. The science suggests that the role of plaques and tangles affect the anatomy of the brain. Why do I state the “anatomy” of the brain? When I think of plaque, they are considered how I would word it, “cellular fragments” that formulate together to block the electrical flow of neurons that are designed to help signal the brain to perform both involuntary and voluntary movements associated with daily life activities. Depending on the nature and the severity of the development of plaques, in terms of the number of cellular fragments that multiply and cluster together over the course of time, I do think this plays a role in determining how mild or severe the Alzheimer’s disease appears for the older adult. Tangles are proteins that relay the essential vitamins and minerals into the brain through the blood which is a factor when it comes to the progression of blood flow and the formation of electrical signals to the brain at the same time. The change in shape of these proteins as well as the restructuring of these proteins that alter the genetic makeup of brain cells make the pathology of the brain “toxic”. What I will also state as well is that, “The damage most often starts in the region of the brain that controls memory” (Mayo Clinic, 2019). I do think what medical professionals are referring to in terms of the region of the brain that controls memory is the temporal lobe in which the temporal lobe is associated with auditory processing as well as the processing of speech and communication, both in which connect to formulate memories which mainly generate in the brain structure known as the hippocampus. I think when plaques and tangles formulate within the hippocampus itself, the hippocampus shrinks (which in medical science is referred to atrophy). Now, evaluating other potential causes of Alzheimer’s disease, there is increasing age. Also, heredity shows that parents and siblings that carry the mutations associated with the APOE (apolipoprotein) gene help to increase the likelihood of their older adult family members to develop the disease. People with down syndrome are likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease because they have three copies of chromosome twenty-one which can lead to the development of plaques within the brain. Medical research has stated also that, “poor sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease” (Mayo Clinic, 2019). It is also possible that, “heart disease may also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease” (Mayo Clinic, 2019). Now, let me explain the current treatments that are involved with older adults with Alzheimer’s disease before discussing about the “new” drug being proposed to the FDA.
Regarding the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults, for the context of this blog, I will just focus on the drugs. The two types of drugs that are currently used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, mainly cognitive symptoms are Cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine. Cholinesterase inhibitors are drugs that are effective in, “boosting levels of cell-to-cell communication by preserving a chemical messenger that is depleted in the brain by Alzheimer’s disease” (Mayo Clinic, 2019). These medications are designed to allow the continuation of neuronal signaling to the brain via blood flow composed of the essential vitamins and materials as well as electrical signals in order to keep the brain’s ability to perform tasks associated with memory and communication. Memantine is similar to a cholinesterase inhibitor in that this drug is effective for older adults in which, “slows the progression of symptoms with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease” (Mayo Clinic, 2019). Now, is there a new drug for Alzheimer’s disease?
A new drug for Alzheimer’s disease is currently being submitted to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for approval. The name of the drug that is being submitted for approval by the FDA is called Aducanumab. The drug company, Biogen Inc., founder of this drug, stated, “So the fact that this drug class- the antibodies against amyloid-may be effective at removing the amyloid from the brain and stabilizing people clinically” (Howland, 2019). The article goes on to indicate that this drug would be given intravenously which probably means that the antibody will surpass the blood-brain barrier to be able to eliminate the plaques that destroy neuronal connections between nerve cells so that neurons can once again fire off chemical and electrical signals to the nerve cells to continue to promote proper brain functioning, and to alleviate the symptomatology associated with the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s disease so that the quality of life in people with Alzheimer’s disease, especially older adults, can improve. What this new drug gives is new potential hope for patients and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease, especially of older adult patients and their families.