Alzheimer's disease: preparations from 'first patient'
Important find for medical historians: Experts from the Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology in Martinsried and specialists from the University of Munich have rediscovered a unique brain specimen: tissue material from the first scientifically described case of Alzheimer's disease. The Bavarian psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer reported on the patient, Auguste D. (51), in 1906 at the 37th meeting of the Southwest German Society of Psychiatrists. Again and again it was speculated that the "discoverer" of the hitherto incurable form of dementia might not have discovered what is today understood by "Alzheimer's disease" in Auguste D., a patient whom he had cared for from 1901. Instead - according to speculation - the woman would have suffered from mere calcification. At the same time, the brain specimens of this "first" patient had disappeared.
The scientists under Manuel Gräber tracked down the preparations about those of the second "case" of Johann F., about which Alzheimer had reported in 1911. In the same collection of histological specimens - tissue sections of the brain - the specimens of Auguste D. were finally found in Munich.
The discovery will be published in the next issue of Neurogenetics. The result according to the previous investigations: The tissue samples showed the changes typical of Alzheimer's patients with deposits of the protein amyloid and spindle-shaped agglomerations of certain proteins.
The scientists: "Taking that together with the clinical presentation presented by Auguste D., the first case presented by Alois Alzheimer was really a case of Alzheimer's disease by today's standards. However, the risk factor apolipoprotein E (E4), which was discovered a few years ago and is said to lead to a particularly early onset of dementia, was not found.