Scientists are not yet sure what causes Alzheimer's disease, a condition that causes brain cells to die, leading to memory loss and confusion. But though the cause is still a mystery, scientists are gradually picking up clues throughout the body.
The latest piece of the Alzheimer's puzzle is the interaction of two proteins. Alzheimer's sufferers have three or four times the amount of these two proteins than people without Alzheimer's, so scientists are trying to find out what these two proteins have to do with the disease.
The first protein, called amyloid-beta peptide, is normally found in the body in small amounts. When Alzheimer's happens in the brain, the body produces too many amyloid-beta peptides. Tangly strands of the amyloid-beta clump together and make a thick mass called plaque. Scientists are not sure yet how plaque could cause the brain to malfunction, or why Alzheimer's is related to too much amyloid-beta.
The body tries to come to the rescue by producing another protein called Receptor for Advanced Glycosylated End Products, sometimes called RAGE. The immune system cranks out RAGE, which attaches itself to the amyloid-beta. Scientists think that when an oversupply of these two proteins get together, they could suffocate the nerves.