As the norovirus and muhlenplague (the flu that attacks our college) transcends our campus, I’ve decided to pull some time away from obsessively washing my hands and gulping copious amounts of green tea to consider the topic of my CUE project. Since my sophomore year, I have developed an interest in neurochemistry and hope to do some research in this field working with neurodegenerative disorders while pursing a career in neurosurgery. With this in mind, I came up with three neurodegenerative diseases that spark my interest:
1. Myasthenia Gravis: This is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that results in fatigue and weakness of voluntary muscles. The name myasthenia gravis has Latin and Greek origins meaning “grave muscle weakness”. The neuromuscular junction is affected in which antibodies block or destroy the acetylcholine receptors. Acetylcholine is crucial for muscle contraction.
2. Alzheimer’s Disease: This is a dementia that affects memory and thinking skills. Brain examinations has lead researchers to believe that the formation of clumps and plaques called amyloid plaque and tangles of fiber called neurofibrillary tangles are to blame for this disorder. It was previously thought to only be seen in aging individuals, but with familial alzheimer’s, symptoms can be seen as early as 40 years old.
3. Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 1: This is an autosomal dominant disorder that affects movement. Initial symptoms include problems with coordination and balance. Eye muscle weakness, swallowing issues, and general muscle stiffness are also included in the list of symptoms. This condition is characterized by the altered ATXN1 gene which extends the length of the CAG trinucleotide repeat over generations.
1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Myasthenia Travis Fact Sheet. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Myasthenia-Gravis-Fact-Sheet. (2010)
2. National Institute of Aging. Alzheimer’s disease fact sheet. https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet. (2011)
3. Genetics Home Reference. SCA1. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/spinocerebellar-ataxia-type-1#inheritance. (2017)