Decoding Darkness: The Search For The Genetic Causes Of Alzheimer's Disease

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ann B. Parson

Published by Basic Books, 2000
ISBN 10: 0738201952 / ISBN 13: 9780738201955
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Synopsis: For nearly a century the cause of Alzheimer's--as well as an effective treatment--has eluded scientists. But research over the past fifteen years has yielded enough knowledge about the disorder's culprit genes and proteins that today drug companies are vying to create a breakthrough drug. At the center of this research is Rudolph Tanzi, a savvy young neurogeneticist who played a key role in a landmark experiment that made disease genes identifiable. Decoding Darkness is the riveting story of his work and that of many others who have gradually pieced together an understanding of why Alzheimer's occurs.Dr. Tanzi and science writer Ann Parson take the reader into the day-to-day lives of those trying to conquer this dreaded disease. In the process, they offer an intimate view of high-stakes medical research, the molecular-genetics revolution that propels it, and the obstacles that threaten to derail it. As human trials for Alzheimer drugs based on one promising hypothesis begin, Decoding Darkness will give readers an unparalleled behind-the-scenes look at how we got here and where we're headed.

Review: Alzheimer's disease, a fatal, annihilating brain disorder, affects millions of men and women around the world. In the United States alone, perhaps one in five persons aged 75 or older suffers from it, though hundreds of thousands of younger people also bear the condition.

Despite its ubiquity, the malady was, until recently, considered a "backwater disease" to which little research attention (and funding) was paid. Advances in gene research, some spearheaded by neurologist Rudolph Tanzi, have led to a new understanding of the causes of Alzheimer's disease, and new possibilities for its cure. In this well-written account of that research, Tanzi and journalist-co-author Ann Parson examine the role of amyloid neuritic plaque, "mucked-up, misfolded protein that fibrilizes and forms rock-hard aggregates that the body can't get rid of." This plaque occurs in humans and certain other carnivorous species (including bears and dogs), and it appears to play a role in neurologic disorders of several kinds. Tanzi reports on recent studies in the use of cholesterol-reducing drugs in lessening levels of "brain dirt," as well as on research that suggests that cardiovascular exercise and a diet low in animal fats can benefit the brain as well as the body. He even cautiously hints that the conquest of Alzheimer's may occur in the very near future. For the time being, his book provides a thoughtful portrait of the illness and of the scholars and scientists who have devoted their lives to combating it. --Gregory McNamee

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Title: Decoding Darkness: The Search For The ...
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Good

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