Alzheimer's drawing of a histological section from his second patient, Johann F. Credit: Image supplied by author, obtained from Zeitschrift fur die Gesamte Neurologie und Pyschiatrie, 1911. On" /> Alzheimer's drawing of a histological section from his second patient, Johann F. Credit: Image supplied by author, obtained from Zeitschrift fur die Gesamte Neurologie und Pyschiatrie, 1911. On" />

Alzheimer's Pathology, circa 1906

Alzheimer's drawing of a histological section from his second patient, Johann F. Credit: Image supplied by author, obtained from Zeitschrift fur die Gesamte Neurologie und Pyschiatrie, 1911." />Alzheimer's drawing of a histological section from his second patient, Johann F. Credit: Image supplied by author, obtained from Zeitschrift fur die Gesamte Neurologie und Pyschiatrie, 1911. On

By | March 1, 2009

<figcaption>Alzheimer's drawing of a histological section from his second patient,
                    Johann F. Credit: Image supplied by author, obtained from Zeitschrift fur die Gesamte
                    Neurologie und Pyschiatrie, 1911.</figcaption>
Alzheimer's drawing of a histological section from his second patient, Johann F. Credit: Image supplied by author, obtained from Zeitschrift fur die Gesamte Neurologie und Pyschiatrie, 1911.

On November 26th 1901, Alois Alzheimer, an assistant physician at the psychiatric institution in Frankfurt, met his now-famous patient, Auguste D., for the first time. Soon into their first conversation, he realized that the 51 year old woman showed symptoms unlike any he had seen before. When Alzheimer asked her questions, her replies didn't match. She also often stopped mid-sentence, as if she had forgotten what she was going to say. She was confused and anxious. Alzheimer was intrigued, but it wasn't until nearly five years later that he got a first glimpse into the underlying pathology.

<figcaption>These drawings, by Alzheimer, depict fibrils twisting around the
                    nuclei from his first patient, Auguste D.</figcaption>
These drawings, by Alzheimer, depict fibrils twisting around the nuclei from his first patient, Auguste D.

When Auguste D. died on April 8th 1906, Alzheimer, then head of the anatomy laboratory at the Royal Psychiatric Clinic in Munich, received her brain for histological analysis, and made drawings of what he saw. Right away, he realized that this case also differed anatomically from all known brain pathologies. Throughout the brain, cells had died on an immense scale. In the neurons that remained Alzheimer noticed thick, strongly staining fibrils (the twisted dark lines in the black and white drawing). Moreover, the cortex was full of plaques of unknown composition. (Curr Biol, 16:906-910, 2006).

On November 3rd 1906, Alzheimer reported his findings at a meeting of psychiatrists in Tübingen, and proposed that he had discovered a new disease. In 1911, he published his findings on the histopathology of Auguste D.'s brain, together with the case of Johann F.

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Comments

Avatar of: M Dixon

M Dixon

Posts: 11

March 18, 2009

Good article but it did raise a couple of questions for me. Why had Alzheimer not seen the symptoms before? Does this suggest this condition was uncommon and why is it now more prevalent?
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 125

March 18, 2009

Senile plaque in AD have yet to been shown to be the cause of the disease convincingly, rather than a symptom. Those who insist that Amyloid beta causes AD may still dominate, but their arguments are still on the slippery slope. As to why AD and other neurodegenerative diseaes are more common now may be because of either the change in the physical environments or the increased longevity, or both. When normal life span was still less than 60 years, more people died before the late-stage symptoms or effects of neurodegeneration had a chance to appear - which isn't the case now the normal life span well into the 80's in the industrialized countries.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

March 25, 2009

Ralf, thanks for this article explaining in brief the history of the Alzheimer disease. It is a great example of the interdisciplinarity of the "Tuebinger Schule", presenting a disease, its histo-pathology and the link to the probable molecular basis of this neurodegeneration. Also the connection to the structure and function of cells, tissues and organs is given.

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