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Alzheimer's disease

The total number of people with dementia worldwide in 2010 is estimated at 35.6 million and is projected to nearly double every 20 years. In Europe and the USA, the prevalence is a about 6% for people above 60 years old. The total estimated worldwide costs of dementia were 604 billion USD in 2010. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for 60-70% of all dementia cases. The large majority of patients have a sporadic form of the disease for which no one single factor has been identified as a cause for this disease. It is likely that a combination of factors is responsible, where age is the largest risk factor. But it is not just a disease of old age, up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s, which often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means that gradually, over time, more parts of the brain are damaged. As this happens, the symptoms become more severe. The hallmarks in the molecular pathology of Alzheimer’s disease consist of the amyloid plaques and the neurofibrillary tangles. The disease is also characterized by loss of neurons and synapses in the cerebral cortex and certain subcortical regions.

The changes occurring in the brain typically begin in the areas that affect learning. Therefore the most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is difficulty remembering newly learned information. As the disease advances through the brain, it leads to increasingly severe symptoms including disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends; more serious memory loss and behavior changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.

Alzheimer’s disease often places a great burden on caregivers and a large cost for the society. 

There is currently no treatment that can cure or even alter the progressive course of Alzheimer's disease. Current drug treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is only symptomatic and can temporarily alleviate some of the symptoms.

Read more about Alzheimer´s disease and dementia here:

  • alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet

Or view e.g. these videos about the proposed mechanisms involved in Alzheimer´s disease:



Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a chronic progressive neurodegenerative disease that gives rise to a set of motor disturbances. PD usually affects people over the age of 50. It is caused by the gradual loss of the dopaminergic neurons in specific parts of the brain. In addition, Lewy bodies (assemblies of primarily the alpha-synuclein protein) are seen in many of the remaining nerve cells.

Symptoms usually start to occur when the level of dopamine in the striatum is < 50 % of the normal levels. Since one important function for dopamine is the control of muscle tension and movements, the motor functions are affected early on in the disease.

The primary symptoms of PD are tremor, rigidity and slowness of movement. The disease can also lead to other symptoms such as depression and other emotional change. There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but a variety of medications, which mainly act by addressing the lack of dopamine, can provide relief from the symptoms.



Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.


Other neurodegenerative disorders

Neurodegenerative disorders are characterized by a progressive loss of structure or function of neurons, eventually leading to death of neurons. There are many neurodegenerative disorders, apart from those mentioned above, such as:

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a clinically heterogeneous condition resulting from the progressive deterioration of the frontal lobe of the brain. Over time, the degeneration may advance to the temporal lobe. The symptoms of FTD fall into two clinical patterns that involve either changes in behavior or problems with language. FTD accounts for about 4-10% of all dementia cases but for about 20% of those with patients < 65 years old.

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a type of dementia closely associated with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It is characterized anatomically by the presence of Lewy bodies, i.e. assemblies of the protein alpha-synuclein, in neurons. 

Huntington's disease (HD) is a genetic neurodegenerative disorder that affects muscle coordination and also leads to cognitive decline and psychiatric problems.