Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating sickness and becoming more prominent in our society. We see it on our TV shows (Grey’s Anatomy lovers), we experience it through friends or family members suffering, and we hear about it in all those intense and uplifting research commercials. However, besides memory loss and confusion, what exactly do we know about Alzheimer’s disease and how is it affecting the brain?
What is Going on in the Brain of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is the overactivation of a biological pathway in the brain initiated by insulin. Insulin binds receptors in the brain which go through a series of chemical changes to become activated. This leads to the further activation of PI3k/Akt/mTOR pathway. Normal function of this pathway is important to the brain; however, it should be activated in moderation. These three proteins are inside the cells that make up our brain, neurons, and regulate normal cellular function and growth. However, when this overactivation occurs, the mTOR protein hyper-phosphorylates (chemical change) Tau and APP proteins in the brain. Once Tau is activated, there is an accumulation of proteins in the brain known as neurofibrillary tangles. Once APP is activated, beta amyloid plaques build up in a similar manner.
Overall, ventricle size increases due to the decrease in brain matter from overaccumulation of proteins. Too many proteins cause brain dysfunction so unnecessary proteins are not being broken down and the cells of the brain, neurons, begin to die.
When it comes to memory loss, the hippocampus shrinks due to brain cell death. The hippocampus is a very important brain structure involved in memory so atrophy to this region is what causes the symptoms associated with memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease.
The Importance of Knowing the Biology of Alzheimer’s Disease
The overview of the biology of Alzheimer’s disease does not even scratch the surface of its true complexity. Therefore, treatment options are limited and are being researched tirelessly. However, knowing more about some of the biology can at least push research forward in the right direction so people can live there best lives up until death.
The next, time you watch your favorite TV show with Alzheimer’s diseases prevalent or you see a commercial on researching the disease, you can hopefully be informed of the intensity this disease is on the brain and the importance of finding a cure.