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Innovations in Elder Care
Innovations in Elder Care
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: Life Science Duration: Three class periods

lesson plan support
Students will
  • Describe the symptoms and suspected causes of Alzheimer?s disease or cancer.
  • Detail the history of research into one of these diseases.
  • Describe current research projects seeking to learn more about or find treatments for either Alzheimer?s disease or cancer.
  • Compare the research history of Alzheimer?s disease with that of cancer.
  • History of Medicine: Innovations in Elder Careprogram
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Newsprint and markers
  • 3 x 5 cards
  1. Begin by passing out the 3 x 5 cards.
    • Give students five minutes to write these words on their cards and ask them to write three things they think they know about each disease under its name.
    • After the five minutes, have students break into small groups and share what they know about each disease.
    • Ask each group to share what they already know and add those items to the board.

  2. Now ask students to watch the program, paying close attention to the following segments:
    • The Fight Against Cancer
    • Alzheimer?s Disease: Losing the Past
    • Lord of the Flies
  3. Tell students that the segments present a brief history of the research of two dreaded diseases?Alzheimer?s disease and cancer. The segments highlight the progress being made in diagnosing and treating them. Although they are different, the similar directions research is taking for both diseases reflect growing knowledge of how the body works as well as the increased sophistication of medical and scientific tools . During this lesson, students will have an opportunity to trace the progress of research into one of these diseases.

  4. Ask students to pick one disease and develop a report explaining the following points:
    • Its symptoms and suspected causes
    • The history of research into the disease, including a discussion of tools used during each phase of research
    • Current research projects leading to either more knowledge or additional treatments

  5. Give students time in class to work on their reports. In addition to the information in the program, students can learn more about these diseases at the following Web sites:

    Alzheimer?s disease
  6. For your information, here are milestones in the history of the research of each of these diseases.
    • Alzheimerís disease. This disease was first observed by Alois Alzheimer in 1901 in Germany. A middle-aged woman came to see him complaining of memory loss and disorientation. Using a simple questionnaire as his research tool, Dr. Alzheimer kept a record of her declining memory. Over a three-year period, the patient went from being able to give her name, the day of the week, and what she had for lunch to just being able to remember her name. Dr. Alzheimer hypothesized that something he called senile plaque had killed the brain. Autopsy studies from the brains of individuals suffering from this disease confirmed that plaque had destroyed the brain. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sometimes shows how the brain has shrunk and atrophied from the disease.

      In a new wave of research, scientists are working with fruit flies to learn how memories form and which genes are responsible for enabling organisms to learn new information and retain it. One such gene, called the CREB gene, works like an on-off switch. If the gene is turned off, then long-term memories cannot form. Scientists hope that they will be able to apply this knowledge to human beings and develop more effective therapies for people suffering from Alzheimerís disease.

    • Cancer.Cancer has been documented since the time of the Egyptians. Hippocrates was the first to identify the difference between benign and malignant tumors. The first kind of treatment was surgery, followed in the 19th century by the use of x- rays to destroy tumor cells. Chemotherapy, the use of chemical agents to kill cancer cells, began in the 1940s, but it wasn?t until the 1960s that researchers began using combination therapies, which were much more effective than single agents. While all these therapies continue to be used, sometimes together, researchers are now starting to look at cancer at the genetic level. By understanding what genes may be responsible for certain kinds of cancer, scientists hope to develop more precise treatments. Therapies designed to stimulate the body?s immune system to fight the cancer cells also are being used, and many more are being studied.
  7. During the next class period, ask volunteers to share their essays. Make sure students have included the main points and have an understanding of how the research has progressed.
  8. Conclude the lesson by comparing how research has progressed for the diseases. Point out an important similarity: Scientists studying both diseases are now focusing on how they can treat them at the molecular level. Ask students why this is an important change. (Because it means that scientists have a better chance of getting to the cause of the disease, not just developing ways to eliminate it or arrest its development.) What breakthroughs do students think are now possible? (An understanding of what ?turns on? the gene that causes either disease; a way to diagnose either disease before symptoms appear; how to target therapies so that the cause of the problem is removed, making the possibility of regression smaller.) How do students think our growing knowledge of genes will benefit research into these two diseases?(Treatments will become more effective, with the possibility of identifying people likely to get a disease before symptoms appear, enabling therapy to begin at the earliest possible time.)

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students researched the topic thoroughly, included all requested elements in their reports, and compared how research has progressed for the two diseases.
  • Two points: Students researched the topic adequately, included most of the requested elements in their reports, and compared how research has progressed for the two diseases.
  • One point: Students did not complete their research of the topic, did not include the requested elements in their reports, and did not compare how research has progressed for the two diseases.

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Alzheimerís disease
Definition:A brain disorder that has as its symptoms disorientation and memory loss; the condition is thought to be caused by plaque made of protein that builds up in the brain, eventually destroying it
Context:Researchers estimate that 4.5 million people suffer from Alzheimerís disease, a number that is expected to rise as the population ages.

Definition:A disease characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells that take over and destroy healthy parts of the body
Context:In recent years, tremendous strides have been made in treating cancer, prolonging life for many people.

Definition:Chemical agents used to treat cancer; these medicines work by destroying the cancer cells and slowing their growth in the body
Context:Although chemotherapy is an effective way to treat cancer, the treatments are harsh and have numerous side effects, such as nausea and hair loss.

CREB gene
Definition:The gene in fruit flies that scientists think is responsible for causing long-term memories to form. When this gene is not working properly, the fruit flies cannot retain new information.
Context:Scientists hope that they will be able to apply what they have learned about the CREB gene to people, resulting

Definition:The deterioration of brain function that occurs as a result of Alzheimerís disease
Context:Although dementia can be caused by other conditions, Alzheimerís disease is by far the biggest culprit.

imaging techniques
Definition:noninvasive ways that the inside of the body can be observed, such as x-rays, computer tomography (CAT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET)
Context:PET scans, one of the newer imaging techniques, opened the door to extensive study of the brain because the images could show how the brain behaved while working, at rest, or under stress.

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Academic Standards
Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL?s Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks,click here.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
  • Scientific Knowledge: Understands the nature of scientific knowledge
  • Historical Understanding: Understands the historical perspective
  • Language Arts - Viewing: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences provides guidelines for teaching science in grades K?12 to promote scientific literacy. To view the standards,click hereto visit the Web site.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • History and Nature of Science: Science as a human endeavor
  • History and Nature of Science: History of science

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