Alzheimer’s disease
Description:
Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that causes loss of brain function and results in impaired thought, memory, and language. It mostly affects parts of the brain that deal with memory and language. It results in abnormal clumps of cellular debris and collapsed microtubules in the brain.

Inheritance:
The most common form of Alzheimer’s forms after age 65. It is unknown exactly how this disease is developed but it is believed to be a multifactorial disorder. Approximately 10% of Alzheimer’s cases are early onset forms of the disease. Early onset forms of the disease are genetically inherited. They are autosomal dominant so you only need one defective gene to get the disease. These forms of the disease can begin anywhere from age 30 to age 65.


Symptoms:
The most well-known symptom of Alzheimer’s is memory loss. Alzheimer’s impairs thought, memory, and language. There are other symptoms associated with loss of brain function that are different in certain patients: Chanting, singing, constantly looking for sympathy, etc. Symptoms steadily become worse as time goes on. Eventually simple everyday tasks will become difficult or impossible in later stages of the disease. Some patients may also feel nervous or sad.


Daily Life:

In the early stages of the disease Alzheimer’s patients can live a somewhat normal life with only occasional forgetfulness. As the disease progresses forgetfulness will increase and patients will have more trouble with remembering more important things. Eventually everyday tasks will become difficult and many patients may need to go to a nursing home. Patients will usually take medications to slow progression of the disease. Some patients may become constantly nervous or depressed.


Diagnosis:
Doctors have not yet been able to come up with a test to specifically diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. What they usually do is give tests that can possibly rule out other forms of dementia in order to deduce that the patient has Alzheimer’s. These tests usually check patient’s memory, language skills, and problem solving ability. Alzheimer’s can only be completely confirmed after death.


Treatment:
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. There are medications such as Aricept and Namenda that can slow the progression of the disease. They can work by increasing the amount of neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain, which increases brain function. Namenda protects brain cells from a damaging chemical called glutamate.




Research:
There are many organizations researching how to prevent certain symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease altogether. It is believed that if a way is found to delay the start of Alzheimer’s disease it would virtually eliminate the disease. Many foundations are trying to conduct clinical research and providing educational outreach.


Additional Facts:
Alzheimer’s disease is tied to chromosome 19. Occasionally people in later stages of the disease will have sudden periods of clarity where they can remember everything again. Currently 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. That number is expected to increase to 14 million by 2050.


Punnett Square:





Pedigree Chart:




Resources:
Utah University Genetic Disease Alzheimer’s Page: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/disorders/whataregd/alzheimers/index.html
Dolan DNA Learning Center Alzheimer’s Page: http://www.ygyh.org/alz/whatisit.htm
American Health Assistance Foundation Alzheimer’s disease research: http://www.ahaf.org/alzheimers/