12 July 2012
Can Alzheimer’s be predicted?
A new study conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine how shown that signs of the disease can appear up to 25 years before the initial onset. This may herald new techniques for developing more successful treatments.
128 people from the UK, USA and Australia, who had a 50% chance of developing one of three mutations which result in early Alzheimer’s, were involved in the study. Blood and spinal fluid samples were taken and participants were given brain scans and completed mental ability tests to assess any changes, as they occurred.A drop in spinal fluid of the key ingredient of Alzheimer’s brain plagues could be seen 25 years before the anticipated onset of the disease, while 15 years prior, brain scans show proteins in the brain which cause memory problems. Around this 15 year mark shrinkage in some parts of the brain are evident while,10 years before the onset of symptoms, slight memory problems and changes in the brains sugar glucose became apparent. Other members of the families were also tested who had not inherited the mutations. In this group none of the participants developed any of the changes experienced by their family members.
Prof Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said, “This important research highlights that key changes in the brain, linked to the inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease, happen decades before symptoms show, which may have major implications for diagnosis and
treatment in the future. These findings are a good indicator that there may be key changes in the brain happening early in people who develop non-hereditary Alzheimer’s disease, but we can’t be sure. Further research into this complex condition is needed to confirm a definite
Dr Eric Karran, director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, The ability to detect the very earliest stages of Alzheimer’s would not only allow people to plan and access care and existing treatments far sooner, but would also enable new drugs to be trialled in the right people, at the right time.”