In the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s plaques and tangles slowly begin to form. At this stage there are no clear warning signs, maybe some slight memory loss, but nothing out of the ordinary. As the plaques and tangles start increasing they manage to start destroying nerve cells and tissue within the brain. It is at this stage that the Alzheimer’s Association’s 10 Warning Signs start to become evident.
Scientists do not know exactly what causes the cell death and tissue loss that is found in the brain of an Alzheimer victim, but like all detectives they have their prime suspects. The prime suspects in the case of Alzheimer’s are plaques and tangles.
The motive behind the plaques and tangles is like that of most terrorists unknown, but their main objective is the destruction of neurons. An adult brain contains about 100 billion individual nerve cells known as neurons. It is these neurons that do all of the real work within the brain.
In a healthy brain all of the brain’s neurons connect together at what are called branches. There are over 100 trillion of these branches within the brain. Scientists refer to these branches as a “neuron forest.”
Memories, thoughts and emotions are formed by signals passing through the neuron forest. The signals move through an individual nerve cell in the form of a tiny electrical charge. The nerve cells make contact with each other at what are called synapses. When a charge reaches a synapse it triggers the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters then travel across the synapse carrying signals to other cells.
When a person has Alzheimer’s the way in which the electrical charges travel within the cells is disrupted. The disease also manages to disrupt the activity of the neurotransmitters. This is when victims will start to have problems with remembering things and with forming new memories. It will also affect their reasoning processes and can affect their personalities.
Plaques are one of the prime suspects of this disease, but where do they come from? In the training camps of Alzheimer’s an innocent protein called Amyloid is divided causing a toxic substance called beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is a sticky substance that gradually starts to clump together with other pieces of beta-amyloid to form the terrorist cell known as a plaque.
The other prime suspect in the Alzheimer’s case is tangles. Within a healthy brain there is a vital cell transport system which is made up of proteins. This system is rather like a railroad with tracks running in a straight line which carry food molecules, cell parts and other materials from port A to port B. In a brain that Alzheimer’s has attacked the railroad tracks become twisted and are now tangles. The warping of the railroad tracks means that the transportation cannot get through. This means that because of the tangles the brain cells can no longer be nourished and so they die.
By the time an individual progresses to Severe Alzheimer’s disease the brain has shrunk dramatically because of the widespread cell death. This senseless disease leaves its victims unable to communicate with loved ones or to even be able to look after themselves. Remember that every 71 seconds someone, somewhere will discover that they have a terrorist cell in their own brain in the form of Alzheimer’s disease. With that chilling thought make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association and let’s try to bring an end to this disease.