Dr. Alois Alzheimer first described Alzheimer’s disease as a peculiar disease related to memory loss and shrinkage of nerves cells in 1906. Alzheimer’s disease has been recognized for over a century. Yet, cure for this neurodegenerative disease is still waiting for being developed. Since the brain is a very complicated organ, scientists could not study this disease profoundly until the electronic microscope became a common research apparatus after World War II.
Due to the increasing number of Alzheimer’s disease patients were diagnosed, the awareness of Alzheimer’s disease has also been increasing in the United States. Studies and research about Alzheimer’s disease had been going on since then. In 1980s, discoveries of two important proteins were identified as key components of Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid protein is believed to be the main protein causes plaque formation in Alzheimer’s brains and triggers damage to neurons. And tau protein causes formation of tangles, which degenerates normal neurons into copies of them. However, the first pharmaceutical treatment was not developed until 1993 and it only slows down disease’s symptoms. Fortunately, in 1996, scientists successfully advanced an Alzheimer vaccine in mice. When injecting transgenic mice with beta-amyloid protein, mice show that the vaccine prevents the mice from plague formation.
According to ScienceDaily, researchers at Lancaster University had invented a new imaging tool—Ultrasonic Force Microscopy (UFM), which uses a vibrating scanner to show a better quality and high contrast nanometer scale resolution image. This apparatus is better than electronic microscopy, which can only gives the resolution but not the contrast, and optical microscopy, which does not provide enough resolution. With the use of UFM, scientists now can review the causes of Alzheimer’s disease with contrast on a nanometer scale. Hoping in a few years, scientists can develop the Alzheimer’s vaccine for human use with the help of UFM.
Posted by Yim Hui