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Alzheimer’s, a very widespread disease and still without cure – rts.ch & More Latest News Here

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Causing progressive memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, which is Wednesday the world day, affects more than 30 million people in the world and still remains without curative treatment.

Described for the first time in 1906 by the German doctor Alois Alzheimer, this “neurodegenerative” disease leads to a progressive deterioration of cognitive abilities leading to a loss of autonomy for the sick person.

Symptoms include repeated forgetfulness, orientation problems, executive function disorders – planning, organizing, ordering in time, having abstract thoughts – or language disorders.

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In Switzerland alone, Alzheimer’s affects some 150,000 people and there are no less than 32,000 new cases each year.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 55 million people in the world suffer from dementia, a group of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most widespread form: the latter represents 60 to 70% of cases, that is more than 30 million patients.

The number of people affected is expected to triple by 2050, due to an increase in cases in low- and middle-income countries, according to the WHO.

>> Read: Alzheimer’s cases could double by 2050 and pose a management challenge

This explosion will further increase the already heavy societal burden of this disease, for loved ones and for health systems. Already today, Alzheimer’s and dementia are among the leading causes of disability and dependency for the elderly.

>> Listen to the testimony of Pascal who, for seven years, has put his activity on hold to help his wife on a daily basis:

The testimony of a loved one helping a person with Alzheimer’s disease / La Matinale / 1 min. / today at 06:30

Precise causes and mechanisms unknown

Alzheimer’s disease may be the most common dementia, but its precise causes and mechanisms are still largely unknown.

>> Read: Gilles Allali: “Alzheimer’s disease begins its damage 10 to 15 years before diagnosis”

Two phenomena are systematically found in Alzheimer’s patients. On the one hand, the formation of so-called amyloid protein plaques, which compress the neurons and ultimately destroy them. On the other hand, a second type of protein, called Tau, present in neurons forms, in patients, clusters which also end up causing the death of affected cells.

But it is not yet clear how these two phenomena are linked. It is also largely unknown what causes them to appear and even how much they explain the course of the disease.

>> Listen to CQFD with insights from Gilles Allali, director of the Leenards Center for Memory at the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV):

World Alzheimer’s Day / CQFD / 11 min. / today at 10:06

The assumption, long dominant, that the formation of amyloid plaques is systematically a triggering factor and not the consequence of other mechanisms is increasingly being called into question.

This is largely the consequence of the difficulties in finding the triggers of this disease: despite decades of research, no treatment today can cure or even prevent the onset of the disease (read framed).

Main advance for 20 years, a treatment of the American laboratory Biogen, which targets amyloid proteins, obtained some results and was approved for certain cases by the American authorities. But its effects remain limited and its therapeutic interest is discussed.

Age and comorbidities

According to the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), in France, the main risk factor is age: the risk of onset of Alzheimer’s disease increases after 65 years and explodes after 80 years.

Cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes or hypertension, when not taken care of in middle age, are also associated with a more frequent occurrence of the disease, although we do not yet know by what mechanisms.

Physical inactivity is another risk factor, as well as cranial microtraumas observed in certain athletes, such as people playing rugby or practicing boxing.

>> Read: Being overweight would promote the onset of Alzheimer’s disease

Conversely, the fact of having studied and having had a stimulating professional activity as well as an active social life, seems to delay the appearance of the first symptoms and their severity.

Under these conditions, the brain would benefit from a “cognitive reserve” which makes it possible to compensate, at least for a time, for the function of the lost neurons. This effect would be linked to cerebral plasticity, namely our brain’s ability to adapt.

>> Listen to “The first non-medical home in Switzerland dedicated to early cases of Alzheimer’s will open in 2023 in Geneva”:

A non-medical home will open in Geneva for early cases of Alzheimer’s / Le 12h30 / 2 min. / today at 12:36

>> A useful link: theSwiss Association for Alzheimer’s Research (APRA)

>> Read: When you discover that you have a taboo disease: Alzheimer’s

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