Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Alzheimer’s Disease: The history

Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. The disease was first recognized by Egyptian physicians in about 2000 BC when they noted that people who got older started to lose their memory. Up until the 15th century, it was believed that dementia was simply a part of aging and not a disease.

Alzheimer's disease was first described in 1906. On November 3, 1906, a clinical psychiatrist and neuroanatomist, Alois Alzheimer, reported “A peculiar severe disease process of the cerebral cortex” to the 37th Meeting of South-West German Psychiatrists in Tubingen,

He describes the haunting case of 50-year-old woman, Auguste Deter, a patient who had profound memory loss, unfounded suspicions about her family, and other worsening psychological changes. His report noted distinctive plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain histology.

Alzheimer later published his descriptions of several similar patients in 1909 and Emil Kraepelin included Ms. Deter’s case in the 1910 edition of his widely respected psychiatry textbook Psychiatrie. It was Emil Kraepelin, a German psychiatrist who worked with Dr. Alzheimer who named this dementia after his junior colleague.

In the late 1960’s, the British psychiatrists Tomlinson and Roth described the importance of these plaques in older adults, and in 1970 Dr. Roth questioned the meaningfulness of the age criterion that distinguished AD from “senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.”

In 1976, neurologist Robert Katzman identifies Alzheimer's disease as the most common cause of dementia and a major public health challenge in his editorial published in Archives of Neurology. In response to Katzman's editorial, organizations from around the world to raise funds for Alzheimer's research and increase awareness of people living with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers.

In 1987, researchers identify the first gene associated with rare, inherited forms of Alzheimer's disease. This gene on chromosome 21 codes amyloid precursor protein (APP), the parent molecule from which beta-amyloid is formed. Chromosome 21 is also the chromosome of which those with Down syndrome have three copies rather than two.

In 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease. Younger people may get Alzheimer’s disease, but it is less common.
Alzheimer’s Disease: The history

The most popular articles

Selected Articles