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According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5.5 million adults in the United States have Alzheimer’s. Statisticians predict the number of affected citizens will triple by the year 2050. As of yet, there is no known cure for the disorder. However, ongoing research indicates that scientists have a better understanding of the disease process and have experienced breakthroughs.


Devastating Diagnosis

Upon initially hearing the diagnosis and during the early phase of the disease, it is not uncommon for patients to suffer anxiety and depression. The damage and devastation that Alzheimer’s causes are well known, and anyone afflicted typically understands what lies down the road. To ease the emotional and mental discomfort, physicians may prescribe antidepressant medications. Recently, a group of scientists discovered that the category of medications may prove more helpful than once believed.


Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, belong to a category of antidepressant medications that Alzheimer’s patients might receive. The neurotransmitter serotonin is equated with enhanced mood along with helping to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. SSRIs prevent the neurotransmitter from being absorbed, which makes more of the compound available in the connective synapses. In this way, nerves cells communicate more effectively.

During their studies, a group of University of Waterloo researchers from Ontario, Canada uncovered that the medications have the ability to interfere with the aggregates in the brain that accumulate and cause dementia and Alzheimer’s. The findings of the study have been published in the “ACS Chemical Neuroscience” journal.


Beta-amyloid Plaques

Under normal circumstances, physiological processes taking place in the brain capably regulate the level of beta-amyloid proteins. When the mechanism fails, the proteins clump together forming plaques that tangle and destroy the synapses and the neurons. The loss of communication between the cells results in the development of dementia and other Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Treatments currently prescribed are designed to manage symptoms. However, none are able to undermine the underlying causes. The drawbacks of new drug development influenced the scientists to research existing formulas for an easier solution.

They chose to examine the effects that SSRIs might have on beta-amyloid protein aggregation. The group evaluated the effects of different SSRIs and various dosages. The scientists learned that the medications fluoxetine and paroxetine demonstrated the ability to interfere with the growth and development of amyloid-beta plaques by up to 74.8 percent and 76 percent.