What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Described for the first time by the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer, it is a physical disease that affects the brain. During the course of the disease, “plaques” (Beta-Amiloid) and “tangles” ( of Tau protein) are developed in the structure of the brain, leading to the death of brain cells and the consequent atrophy of neural structures that perform important functions for our daily lives. The disease usually has an average duration of 10-12 years, although this can vary greatly from one patient to another. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, which means that gradually more parts of the brain will be damaged. As this happens, symptoms begin to become more severe.
Situation/Prospects of Alzheimer’s disease today in Argentina and the world
Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 400,000 people in Argentina and the main risk factor is age, so it can become a pandemic with a new case in the world every 70 seconds. Approximately 5% of men and women between 65 and 74 can suffer from it, while among those over 85, the percentage of people with the disease reaches 40%. For the World Health Organization, meanwhile, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most relevant problems in public health of this century since in less than 20 years there will be 65.7 million affected and 115.4 million in 2050. But its effects, as happens dramatically with each epidemic, will be felt most acutely in low- and middle-income countries compared to developed countries: whereas in 2010, 57.7% of all people with this disease are in low- and middle-income countries, in 2050 the rate will expand to 70.5% (World Alzheimer Report 2011 – Alzheimer´s Disease International- 2012 Alzheimer´s Disease Facts and Figures – Alzheimer´s Association Dementia: A problem for our age, Nature 475, S2-S4 14 July 2011).
Objectives/Lines of research of the Alzheimer Institute of the INECO Foundation
As it can be concluded from our mission, research of the highest quality with international repercussion and applicability in the activities of daily life of human beings is an absolute priority for the INECO Foundation. The existence of a space of clinical-academic excellence that has managed to position Argentina on the international neuroscience map, has allowed the INECO Foundation to be the substrate to repatriate a large number of neuroscience researchers who were working in various universities around the world. These scientists, along with many others, have created a research laboratory where they develop specific lines of study based on particular topics:
To develop cognitive biomarkers of brain activity to detect early and pre-clinical signs of Alzheimer’s disease using non-invasive methods.
To study the neuropsychological profile, evolution and efficacy of non-pharmacological treatments in atypical variants of Alzheimer’s disease, such as posterior cortical atrophy.
To study the cerebral bases of the integration of contextual information during social cognition tasks (empathy, recognition of emotions, moral judgment) in Alzheimer’s disease.
To analyze the emotional processing in Alzheimer’s disease in moderate to severe stages of the disease (emotional recognition of the face and voice of relatives).
To develop screening tools to help the family doctor detect early Alzheimer’s disease.
To analyze the current approach of Argentinian physicians as regards Alzheimer’s disease.
To deepen the characterization of atypical variants of Alzheimer’s disease.
To measure the impact of non-pharmacological measures on sleep disorders in Alzheimer’s disease.
To study the mechanisms involved in anosognosy (difficulty to become aware of one’s own deficits) in Alzheimer’s disease.
To analyze the prospects of communication with family members and the patient in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.