The Alzheimer’s Disease, often just called Alzheimer’s, is a neurodegenerative disease of the brain and the most common form of dementia. Protein deposits inside the brain lead to a loss of cognitive, social, and emotional abilities. Men and women are both concerned, however, more often women from the age of 65 onwards are affected. The risk to suffer from the disease gets higher with increasing age. Already 20 percent of all over 85-year-olds suffer from Alzheimer’s. In Germany about 1.5 million people are affected by dementia, most of them by Alzheimer’s.
The exact cause of the disease named after the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer is not completely understood up to now. There is a hereditary component as well as infectious and general risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes mellitus. The accumulation of aluminum in the brain is also under discussion of possible causes. Studies have furthermore found a positive correlation between missing socialization or social isolation and Alzheimer’s disease.
Symptoms and Progress of Alzheimer’s Disease
The progress of Alzheimer’s can be classified into different stages. Due to the continuous degeneration of nerve tissue inside the brain it initially causes increased memory loss, especially of the short-time memory, and word finding disorders. At the beginning people affected yet notice their troubles themselves. Consequently they often withdraw themselves because they feel ashamed by their behavior.
The gathering of contexts, language and orientation capability, and skills of everyday life such as cooking or daily body hygiene can subsequently only be managed very difficultly. In the last stage Alzheimer’s patients get in need of nursing care. Lacking control of body functions such as continence set in. Insufficient memory of the patient’s own relatives or friends is making nursing care even more difficult. The pace of disease progression differs a lot from patient to patient. Indeed in some cases an enormous deterioration of the state can take place within a very short period.
Ultimately those concerned are weakened to such an extent due to the degeneration of structures inside the central nervous system and further physical structures that conventional infections or other diseases can result in death very quickly.
Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease has been incurable thus far. However, there are some options to improve symptoms and to delay further degeneration of brain substance. Drugs can prevent nerve cells inside the brain from dying and thus contribute to keeping up the patient’s abilities for longer time. Particularly in the early stages the memory can be strengthened through training.
Scientists are already working on the development of drugs that are able to dissolve the plaques resulting from the illness. Unfortunately no considerable success could be achieved so far.
People affected also reach for vitamin products and plant extracts such as ginseng and garlic. However, scientific evidence is still missing for the efficacy of these substances.
Stem Cell Therapy of Alzheimer’s Disease
The usage of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) or Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF), which are obtained from the patient’s own fat tissue, has already proven to be successful in a number of diseases with a degenerative component. In the course of an outpatient surgery a small amount of body fat is harvested. The stem cells isolated therefrom are injected systemically immediately afterwards.
Current studies on the application of mesenchymal stem cells are giving new hope. There was, for example, one study on mice that showed an improvement of memorizing the way through a labyrinth after the administration of stem cells. This effect is thought to be the result of cytokines released by mesenchymal stem cells, which stimulate stationary stem cells inside the brain to regenerate structures of the nervous system.