Alzheimer Disease


Alzheimer disease is a major public health concern in the elderly. In the United States, it is the fourth leading cause of death and is the most common cause of dementia. Although some cases of Alzheimer disease are caused by genetic mutations, most cases are probably due to a number of genetic and environmental factors. There is currently no cure for this serious and debilitating disorder.

Keywords: alzheimer disease; dementia; apolipoprotein E; plaques; tangles

Figure 1.

Clock drawings from four patients with varying severity of Alzheimer disease, who were asked as part of a neuropsychological test: ‘Please draw a clock. Put the hours on it and set the time at 2:45’.

Figure 2.

Light micrograph of Alzheimer disease neuropathology. Section from the cortex of a patient with Alzheimer disease showing tangles and plaques. The intraneuronal tangle (arrow) is stained dark brown with an antibody that specifically targets paired helical filaments. These filaments are also seen as the dense brown material (dystrophic processes) embedded in the extracellular plaque (arrowhead). The lighter reddish staining of the plaque is from another antibody directed specifically against β‐amyloid.

Figure 3.

Schematic diagram of β‐amyloid precursor protein (APP). The secretase cleavage sites are shown. Cleavages by β‐ and γ‐secretases release Aβ peptides. Aβ42–43 are the major constituents in amyloid plaques.


Further Reading

Hutton M and Hardy J (1997) The presenilins and Alzheimer’s disease. Human Molecular Genetics 6: 1639–1646

Lendon CL, Ashall F and Goate AM (1997) Exploring the etiology of Alzheimer disease using molecular genetics. Journal of the American Medical Association 277: 825–831.

Ray JW, Ashall F and Goate AM (1998) Molecular pathogenesis of sporadic and familial forms of Alzheimer’s disease. Molecular Medicine Today April: 151–157.

Selkoe DJ (1998) The cell biology of β‐amyloid precursor protein and presenilin in Alzheimer's disease. Trends in Cell Biology 8: 447–453.

Morrison‐Bogorad M, Weiner FM, Rosenberg RN, Bigio E and White CL III (1997) Alzheimer's disease. In: Rosenberg RN, Prusiner SB, DiMauro S and Barchi RL (eds) The Molecular and Genetic Basis of Neurological Disease, pp. 581–600 Boston: Butterworth–Heinemannl.

Roses AD (1997) Apolipoprotein E and Alzheimer's disease. In: Rosenberg RN, Prusiner SB, DiMauro S,and Barchi RL (eds) The Molecular and Genetic Basis of Neurological Disease, pp. 1019–1035 Boston: Butterworth–Heinemannl.

Levy‐Lahad E, Tsuang D and Bird TD (1998) Recent advances in the genetics of Alzheimer's disease. Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology 11: 42–54.

Anderton BH (1999) Alzheimer’s disease: clues from flies and worms. Current Biology 9: 106–109.

Marx J (1996) Searching for drugs that combat Alzheimer's. Science 273: 50–53.

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How to Cite close
Nowotny, Petra, Kwon, Jennifer M, and Goate, Alison M(Apr 2001) Alzheimer Disease. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0000228]