Approximately 10% of all persons over the age of 70 have significantly memory loss and in more than half the cause is Alzheimer’s Disease.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), an irreversible and progressive brain disorder, is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly population. Currently Alzheimer’s disease is ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in USA. Approximately 10% of all persons over the age of 70 have significantly memory loss and in more than half the cause is AD.
Alzheimer’s disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who in 1906 noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. Signs and symptoms include:
Memory problems are generally the first signs of cognitive impairment. As the disease progresses patients experience greater memory loss, other problems include getting lost, disorientation. Personality and behavioral problems are present in mild Alzheimer’s disease. In moderate stage of the disease patients have difficulties in recognizing family and friends and may experience hallucinations and paranoia. Patients with severe Alzheimer’s cannot communicate and are completely dependent of others. Death generally occurs from pneumonias or other infections.
Many studies are made to understand the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s. The model which is supported is that a peptide called beta amyloid accumulates in the brain over time. At microscopic level AD is characterized by the presence of plaques (an extracellular lesion) and neurofibrillary tangles (an intracellular lesion). On gross examination is presented variable degree of cortical atrophy.
Recent studies are in process to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. A group of scientists showed that pomegranate extract, which is rich in polyphenols can help protect against the development of Alzheimer’s. In order to fight the formation of the beta amyloid, the molecule must cross the blood-brain barrier, and the polyphenols cannot cross this barrier due to their chemical structure. Further studies were made by the scientists to exactly identify the molecule. After further examinations they found out that a compound called urolithin could cross the blood- brain barrier.
Urolithins are gut bacteria metabolites of the ellagitannins, a polyphenol found in pomegranate extract. Urolithins have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. In vitro studies showed that urolithins reduced significantly AB fibrillation, the formation of the plaques in the brain tissue. Further test are necessary to create a more specific concept on how this molecule works and to understand deeply its effects, but the results of the experiments are very exciting.
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