In November of 1901, a young German psychiatrist and neuroanatomist, Alois Alzheimer, found what appeared to be misfolded proteins forming sticky clumps, or plaques, between the neurons in the brain tissue of a patient who had died from dementia. Inside the neurons he found threadlike twists, called neurofibrillary tangles, of another protein. Eventually these plaques and tangles came to define the disease named after him: Alzheimer’s disease.

By the mid 1980s, these strange proteins had been identified as beta-amyloid proteins, and by the 1990s it was widely accepted that an excess of these proteins caused the formation of the plaques, which in…


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