Identifying the effects and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans

Youngho Jung 1,2

  1. W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory, Howard University
  2. Department of Biology, Howard University
The first ever recorded case of Alzheimer’s can be credited to Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a pioneer in linking symptoms to microscopic brain changes. He describes the haunting case of Auguste D. in 1906, a patient who had profound memory loss, unfounded suspicions about her family, and other worsening psychological changes. After her death 5 years later, Dr. Alois discovered that her brain underwent dramatic shrinkage and abnormal deposits in an around the nerve cells. Early discoveries regarding the peculiar disease were initiated using the electron microscope, for example, to allow further study of the brain. Beta-amyloid, a novel cerebrovascular amyloid protein and the chief component of Alzehimer’s brain plaques and the trigger for nerve cell damage was discovered in 1984. Since then, major strides have been taken to deterimine the genes responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. In 1991, a clinical study was launched by the federal governments. This led to the new criteria and guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, and in turn, paved the way for the first major clinical trial for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. But as with much progress, there are still an estimated 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s today, and more than half are African Americans. What is most surprising is that, it wasn’t until August 11, 2015, they discovered the disease occurred much differently among patients from the European and non-European communities. That convinced researchers to further investigate patients treated historically. The Cobb Collection is an excellent site. Currently, I am attempting to elucidate the clear differences on how Alzheimer’s affects the African-American community, and the mistreatment in turn to the patients that lived before our lifetime.

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