To do their work, brain cells operate like tiny factories. They receive supplies, generate energy, construct equipment and get rid of waste. Cells also process and store information and communicate with other cells. Keeping everything running requires coordination as well as large amounts of fuel and oxygen.
Scientists believe Alzheimer's disease prevents parts of a cell's factory from running. Like a real factory, backups and breakdowns in one system cause problems in other areas. As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs and, eventually die, causing irreversible changes in the brain.
1. Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid that build up in the spaces between nerve cells.
Two abnormal structures called plaques and tangles are primarily the cause of damaging and killing nerve cells.
2. Tangles are twisted fibers of another protein called tau (rhymes with “wow”) that build up inside cells.
Most experts believe they somehow play a critical role in blocking communication among nerve cells and disrupting processes that cells need to survive.
Amyloid plaques are the buildup of proteins that gather outside nerve cells. The protein forming plaques in Alzheimer's patients is normally soluble. When the protein folds improperly, it forms amyloid deposits that are associated with brain inflammation.
It's the destruction and death of nerve cells that causes memory failure, personality changes, problems carrying out daily activities and other symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.