What if Everything We Knew About Alzheimer’s Was Wrong?

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Alzheimer’s is a growing problem associated with old age. It is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. Brain cell connections and the cells themselves degenerate and die, eventually destroying memory and other important mental functions.

Treatment can help, but this condition, as of now, can’t be fully cured. It requires a medical diagnosis. Lab tests or imaging are not required. It is chronic: and can last for years or be lifelong. It is a disease that affects many who are over 65 age where societal help is elusive leaving the patients vulnerable to reduced quality of life, and succumbing to more serious mental ailments without help.

Having such a debilitating mental illness that may contribute to earlier deaths calling for urgent medical solutions, this discussion looks at efforts to arrest this runaway medical condition.

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that gets worse over time. It’s characterized by changes in the brain that lead to deposits of certain proteins. Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to eventually die.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a gradual decline in memory, thinking, behaviour and social skills. These changes affect a person’s ability to function.

The early signs of the disease include forgetting recent events or conversations. Over time, it progresses to serious memory recall problems and loss of the ability to perform everyday tasks.

Read Related: Margarine: The Controversial Spread Linked to Alzheimer’s—Fact or Fiction?

Medicines may improve or slow the progression of symptoms. Programs and services can help support people with the disease and their caregivers. No treatment cures Alzheimer’s disease. In advanced stages, severe loss of brain function can cause dehydration, malnutrition or infection. These complications can result in fatalities.

Everyone has memory lapses at times, but the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease persists and gets worse. Over time, memory loss affects the ability to function at work or home. People with Alzheimer’s disease may repeat statements and questions over and over. They tend to forget conversations, appointments or events.

The victims misplace items, often putting them in places that don’t make sense. They also get lost in places they used to know well. Eventually, they forget the names of family members and everyday objects.

They have trouble finding the right words for objects, expressing thoughts or taking part in conversations. Alzheimer’s disease causes difficulty concentrating and thinking, especially about abstract concepts such as numbers.

Doing more than one task at once is especially difficult. It may be challenging to manage finances, balance chequebooks and pay bills on time. Eventually, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may be unable to recognize and deal with numbers.

Alzheimer’s disease causes a decline in the ability to make sensible decisions and judgments in everyday situations. For example, a person may make poor choices in social settings or wear clothes for the wrong type of weather. It may become harder for someone to respond to everyday problems.

For example, the person may not know how to handle food burning on the stove or make appropriate decisions when driving. He may seem perplexed to deal with mundane issues that can easily be handled reflexively.

Routine activities that require completing steps in order become a struggle. This may include planning and cooking a meal or playing a favourite game. Eventually, people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease forget how to do basic tasks such as dressing and bathing or wiping themselves after a long call.

Brain changes that occur in Alzheimer’s disease can affect moods and behaviours. Problems may include the following: depression, loss of interest in activities, social withdrawal, mood swings, and distrust in others. anger or aggression, changes in sleeping habits, aimless wandering, loss of inhibitions and delusions, such as believing something has been stolen or unexplained improvements of personal fortunes.

Despite major changes to memory and skills, people with Alzheimer’s disease are able to hold on to some skills even as symptoms get worse. Preserved skills may include reading or listening to books, telling stories, sharing memories, singing, listening to music, dancing, drawing, or doing crafts.

These skills may be preserved longer because they’re controlled by parts of the brain affected later in the course of the disease. This observation questions past-held beliefs of how well-exercized skills can turn the corner knowing it is a matter of time before such skills will be knocked off, and become inaccessible to the patient.

What Is Science Doing About It?

An arthritis drug hydroxychloroquine that was trumpeted during the COVID-19 global pandemic as a magic wand but failed miserably is now being touted as a missing link to blow apart memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s that causes dementia and its associated mental handicap.

It is the drug’s suppression of inflammation, commonly associated with neurodegenerative disorders, that might provide surprising benefits for dementia. The whole concept as expressed here was not drawing tangible support because it did not espouse to conventional wisdom of tackling amyloid syndrome where most resources are directed. Innovative ways of fighting Alzheimer’s may struggle to turn the heads of decision-makers because of what is frowned upon as “unnecessary distractions!”

Also, read: Neuralink’s Telepathy Implant: A Giant Leap in Brain-Computer Interface

The amyloid hypothesis holds that sticky plaques and other so-called amyloid-beta proteins build up in the brain and prompt changes that cause Alzheimer’s disease’s cruel decline, gradually stealing a person’s mastery of everyday life, cherished memories and, finally, their sense of self. It is akin to foreign intruders’ violent invasion of the brain, and taking over by inundating it with deadly bugs, slowing it before total destruction. It is a scary proposition just to consider it.

Initially, science deemed the amyloid hypothesis as the real cause of Alzheimer’s, and from that theory, a number of drugs were developed to attack amyloid. Over the years, failures to dislodge amyloid have convinced the science community that the issues could be more complicated than previously thought!

Animal experiments that followed identified one specific type of amyloid protein as one of the causes of Alzheimer’s. It became a focal point of academic papers, money and more research. Medications such as Leqembi have been on the market that works within the framework of the amyloid hypothesis of attacking specific proteins considered a culprit behind Alzheimer’s.

However, the main setback was while the prescriptions mildly slowed the erosion of cognitive deterioration but was not a panacea the scientific community was drooling for.

The new drugs came with a string of hurdles that kept the majority of patients from accessing them despite their lean medical advantages. High costs of diagnostic scans and prescriptions with the benefits too unsatisfactory to justify keeping the drugs on the shelves for the sick.

Of more concern, the evaluation of the new drugs was pushed to the finishing line by applying falsified data! Most users of the new drugs based on amyloid concepts struggled to recognize their relatives and other patients in the program!

The drugs were also associated with dangerous brain swelling and haemorrhage. Such information was not shared with the regulators before the approval of the new drug’s wide usage. Of equal concern, very few patients were involved in the study to draw meaningful findings.

The drugs also mysteriously dwarfed the brain sizes much faster than Alzheimer’s itself, with unknown long-term effects. Since the side effects were unknown the prescription labels that should have warned the patients were conveniently lacuna.

The whole research paper was retracted and those involved were charged with medical fraud. The focus now is shifting to available medications whose patents have elapsed that may be cheaper to initialize and sustain at reasonable costs.

One of the ideas is to experiment with hydroxychloroquine to arrest cognitive erosion through the promotion of anti-inflammatory effects. Other drugs are also on trial on the same subject by targeting weight loss as a tool to improve anti-inflammation.

Concepts that were once dismissed as “unworkable” are now gaining new traction such as the nexus between Alzheimer’s and a virus called herpesvirus – a scourge spread by oral or genital contact and often resulting in painful infections. For years, powerful promoters of the amyloid hypothesis ignored or dismissed the infection hypothesis for Alzheimer’s, effectively rendering it invisible.

Research suggests that viruses may hide undetected in organs, including the brain, for years, causing symptoms divergent from the original infection. As the studies on STIs develop, Syphilis and Gonorrhea may also be handy to explain how brain size is shrinking and proffer plausible solutions to solve the mysteries of Alzheimer’s.

In the biographical book of former president Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, “The Ghost of Kampala: The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin.” the author alleged Idi Amin was suffering from chronic Syphilis, and may have permeated his brain cells leading to reduced mental capacity.

At that time, Alzheimer’s was not in the equation but could the writer, George Ivan Smith, be referring to it without naming it? It is an answer this article will never answer in honesty. A clinical trial treating latent herpes among Alzheimer’s patients with an antiviral drug is underway, and results are expected as soon as next year.

Thank God that since the misleading aspects of the amyloid hypothesis have been profoundly established now the science community can move with confidence to consider other possible brain anti-inflammation that shrinks brain size and amplifies Alzheimer’s with all the devasting consequences to the victims.

With latent herpes now into consideration may open up a chapter where all forms of STI will be under the spotlight to see whether there too may be a missing explanation of what causes the debilitating sickness.

Again an interesting question that keeps popping up like champagne is about hydroxychloroquine could be that magic wand that has eluded us all these years to cure Alzheimer’s? It is such an exciting proposition that can no longer be swept under the carpet.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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