Alzheimer’s disease is very complex and incompletely understood because the brain is very complex and incompletely understood. Efforts to make progress towards therapies for Alzheimer’s disease have progressed in parallel with, and often driven and funded, efforts to map the works of the brain at the detail level of cellular biochemistry. Even though Alzheimer’s will turn out to have easily stated causes, a set of comparatively simple biochemical processes, even simple origins expand – over time and through chains of cause and effect – to produce end state conditions that are as complex as their environment.
Researchers tend to specialize. There is too much biochemistry to hold it all in one mind, even for a single medical condition. So the research community tends to act in practice much like the blind men and the elephant, everyone focused on their particular facet of the larger condition. Focus is necessary to make progress on understanding that facet, but at the end of the day someone needs to occasionally review all of the facets together to see if the picture still makes sense. Synthesis is an increasingly important function in modern life science research, becoming ever more challenging as the facets grow in
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