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Designer Compounds
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Designer Compounds

 

Source: Image 1: US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PET_Normal_brain.jpg /// Image 2: US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PET_Alzheimer.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

These two images show human brains (as viewed from the top of the head). They were created by an imaging method called a PET scan. The two brains are clearly very different. The reason? The brain on the left is normal, but the brain on the right is that of a person with Alzheimer’s disease.

Why It Matters

  • Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by permanent changes in the brain. People with the disease gradually lose their mental abilities. They can’t reason, remember, or take care of themselves. The disease keeps getting worse until it causes death.
  • One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease. Chances are, one of the older people you know has the disease. Alzheimer’s is also the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. In addition, it takes a huge financial toll. Providing care for people with Alzheimer’s disease costs an estimated 300 billion dollars each year.
  • Credit: Anthony Easton
    Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkmoose/3405666563
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    The majority population with Alzheimer's are elderly people [Figure2]

     

  • There is no cure for this devastating disorder. Drugs that are currently available can slow but not stop its advance. They also can’t restore brain cells that have been destroyed by the disease.
  • Believe it or not, physical scientists may be the researcherswho come up with a cure for Alzheimer’s. Watch this video to learn about one chemist’s efforts to create designer organic compounds to cure the disease: http://www.nbclearn.com/chemistrynow/cuecard/55801

Show What You Know

Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and PET scans at the links below. Then answer the questions that follow.

  1. What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
  2. What is organic synthesis?
  3. How is chemist Stefan France using organic synthesis to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease?
  4. What is a PET scan? How does it work?
  5. What does a PET scan show? How does it differ from other types of scans, such as MRI scans?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Source: Image 1: US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PET_Normal_brain.jpg /// Image 2: US National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PET_Alzheimer.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Anthony Easton; Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkmoose/3405666563; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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