Posted on Jan 13, 2011, 6 a.m.
UK team reports on diagnostics to detect Alzheimer’s Disease in its very early, pre-symptomatic stages.
Currently there is no single test or cure for dementia, and – specifically – Alzheimer’s Disease, and scientists around the world are engaged in efforts to find treatments that prevent the disease or at least slow its progression. Jonathan M. Schott, from the University College of London (United Kingdom), and colleagues report that they have developed a diagnostic protocol to detect Alzheimer’s Disease in its very early, pre-symptomatic stages. The researchers enrolled 105 healthy volunteers, each of whom underwent testing to detect two characteristic signs of Alzheimer’s Disease: shrinkage of the brain, and low levels of amyloid protein in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The study subjects had lumbar puncture tests to check their CSF for levels of amyloid and MRI brain scans to calculate brain shrinkage. The team found that the brains of those normal individuals with low CSF levels of amyloid (38% of the group), shrank twice as quickly as the other group. They were also five times more likely to possess the APOE4 risk gene and had higher levels of a tau, a second protein implicated in Alzheimer's Disease. Observing that: “A significant percentage of healthy older adults have CSF profiles consistent with [Alzheimer's Disease] and increased rates of brain atrophy,” the researchers posit that: “[These patients] may be in the earliest stages of neurodegeneration. Brain atrophy may be a feasible outcome measure for [Alzheimer's Disease] prevention studies.”
Jonathan M. Schott, Jonathan W. Bartlett, Nick C. Fox and Josephine Barnes, for the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative Investigators. “Increased brain atrophy rates in cognitively normal older adults with low cerebrospinal fluid A beta1-42.” Annals of Neurology, Volume 68, Issue 6, December 2010, , Pages 825–834.