CATHERINE POUEDRAS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CATHERINE POUEDRAS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Alzheimer's disease: post-mortem specimen of a whole brain from an Alzheimer's disease victim, in a hospital research laboratory. The normal ageing process causes a gradual loss of brain mass from the age of 20, accompanied by reductions in nerve cell numbers & other structural changes. Two of these, tangled protein filaments (neurofibrillary tangles) within neurons & extracellular plaques composed of a protein, beta-amyloid, are present in greater numbers in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. The role of these lesions is obscure: one theory suggests a link between beta-amyloid & acute inflammation that causes the destruction of healthy nerve cells.
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