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Alzheimer`s & Dementia
Year: 2012  |  Volume: 8  |  Issue: 4  |  Page No.: 343 - 351

Some evolutionary perspectives on Alzheimer‘s disease pathogenesis and pathology

Daniel J. Glass and Steven E. Arnold    

Abstract: There is increasing urgency to develop effective prevention and treatment for Alzheimer‘s disease (AD) as the aging population swells. Yet, our understanding remains limited for the elemental pathophysiological mechanisms of AD dementia that may be causal, compensatory, or epiphenomenal. To this end, we consider AD and why it exists from the perspectives of natural selection, adaptation, genetic drift, and other evolutionary forces. We discuss the connection between the apolipoprotein E (APOE) allele and AD, with special consideration to APOE ɛ4 as the ancestral allele. The phylogeny of AD-like changes across species is also examined, and pathology and treatment implications of AD are discussed from the perspective of evolutionary medicine. In particular, amyloid-β (Aβ) neuritic plaques and paired helical filament tau (PHFtau) neurofibrillary tangles have been traditionally viewed as injurious pathologies to be targeted, but may be preservative or restorative processes that mitigate harmful neurodegenerative processes or may be epiphenoma of the essential processes that cause neurodegeneration. Thus, we raise fundamental questions about current strategies for AD prevention and therapeutics.

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