Alzheimer’s: History of Discovery & Research

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History of Discovery & Research of Alzheimer’s in Des Moines, IA

More than 5.5 million adults over the age of 65 are afflicted with Alzheimer’s in the United States. Though the disorder is now frequently diagnosed, it wasn’t discovered until the early 20th century. Researchers have made great strides in understanding how the disease process develops in an attempt to find effective treatments.


Dr. Alois Alzheimer was the first to recognize the unusual cognitive and behavioral systems the disease process creates. In 1906, one of his subjects experienced abnormal memory loss, became suspicious of her family members, and exhibited other cognitive symptoms. Upon her death, Alzheimer performed an autopsy that revealed significant brain shrinkage in addition to strange deposits encompassing and contained within the nerve cells. In 1910, the degenerative disorder was named for the German physician. German researchers Ernst Ruska and Max Knoll combined efforts to create the first electron microscope in 1931. The device magnified specimens up to one million times. However, it wasn’t until the end of WWII that the tool was used to evaluate brain cells in greater detail. In 1968, scientists developed the first tests for evaluating cognitive function and cognitive decline in older adults. The technique was eventually used to estimate the level of tissue damage and the extent of Alzheimer’s lesions in the brain based on the outcomes of the evaluation. If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, help is just a phone call away. There are many reasons seniors might need assistance at home. Some may require regular mental stimulation due to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, while others might only need part-time assistance with exercise and basic household tasks. Home Care Assistance is a leading senior care provider. Families rely on our expertly trained caregivers to help their senior loved ones maintain a high quality of life.

Early Research

Jerome H. Stone, accompanied by family support groups, approached the National Institute on Aging (NIA) in 1979. The group wanted to stimulate government efforts toward the research of Alzheimer’s disease. One year later, the Alzheimer’s Association was formed, and Stone served as the first president of the organization. In 1984, researchers Caine Wong and George Glenner identified the beta-amyloid protein. The compound became equated with the development of plaques that were thought to initiate the nerve damage in people with Alzheimer’s. Three years later, scientists discovered the tau protein that became associated with causing neuron tangles and eventual cell death.  Aging adults who need help managing mental and physical health issues can benefit from the assistance of highly trained professional caregivers. Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Des Moines Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.

Ongoing Study

In 1987, the Alzheimer’s Association aided the Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Company and the NIA in launching the first drug trial for tacrine. However, the drug wouldn’t receive FDA approval until 1993. During the late 1980s, scientists identified a gene associated with a rare form of inherited Alzheimer’s. The gene, found on chromosome 21, codes the amyloid precursor to transform into the beta-amyloid protein. The APOE-e4 gene was first identified by scientists in 1993. The gene was discovered on chromosome 19 and was determined to increase the risk of developing the cognitive disorder. The first World Alzheimer’s Day was celebrated on September 21st and organized by the Alzheimer’s Association. Research continues to enhance detection methods and one day develop an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s. Families with a loved one diagnosed with the disease must become familiar with the symptoms that emerge as the disorder progresses to protect the senior’s dignity and safety. Aging in place can present a few unique challenges for older adults. Some only require part-time assistance with exercise or meal preparation, while others are living with serious illnesses and benefit more significantly from receiving 24-hour care. Des Moines, IA, Home Care Assistance are leaders in the elderly in-home care industry for good reason. We tailor our care plans based on each senior’s individual needs, our caregivers continue to receive updated training in senior care as new developments arise, and we also offer comprehensive care for seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s. Call Home Care Assistance today at (515) 264-2438 to learn about our high-quality in-home care services.


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