13 july 2012
5 Key Signs Identified That Can Help In Early Diagnosis And Treatment
London: Scientists have found five key signs of Alzheimer’s that can be detected up to 25 years before the onset of the degenerative disease, a finding which they say could lead to its early diagnosis and treatment.
A team at Washington University School of Medicine who looked at families with a genetic risk of the disease assembled a "timeline" of the unseen progress of Alzheimer’s much before the symptoms appear, researchers said. Experts believe the ability to detect Alzheimer’s early would give the best chance of a successful treatment, BBC News reported.
The study involved 128 people from the UK, US and Australia, who had a 50% chance of inheriting one of three mutations certain to cause early Alzheimer’s, which often develops in people during their 30s and 40s.
This is much earlier than the more common form which generally affects people in their 60s. Those who carry the mutations will go on to develop the disease.
The researchers took into account the age of the participants’ parents when they developed the disease – and therefore how many years it was likely to be before they too showed symptoms.
Scientists underwent blood and spinal fluid tests as well as brain scans and mental ability assessments.
The earliest change – a drop in spinal fluid levels of the key ingredient of Alzheimer’s brain plaques – can be detected 25 years before the anticipated age of disease onset, they suggested.
Raised levels of tau, a structural protein in brain cells can be seen in spinal fluid at 15 years, and shrinkage can also be detected within parts of the brain.
Scientists suggest that changes in the brain’s use of the sugar glucose and slight memory problems become apparent 10 years before symptoms would appear.
Researchers also tested other members of the families without the inherited mutations – and found no changes in the markers they tested for.
"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," Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said. PTI New gene mutation may aid drug quest
Astudy of a rare gene mutation that protects people against Alzheimer’s disease provides the strongest evidence yet that excessive levels of a normal brain substance, beta amyloid, are a driving force in the disease – bolstering hopes that anti–amyloid drugs already under development might alter the disease’s course or even prevent it. So far, the drugs have not succeeded. But scientists not connected with the new study said it suggested that the drug companies’ big bets on anti–amyloid treatments could yet pay off. The protective mutation, whose discovery was reported online on Wednesday in the journal Nature, is highly uncommon – it is not the reason most people do not develop Alzheimer’s. But what intrigues researchers is how it protects the brain. Mutations that cause Alzheimer’s lead to excessive amounts of beta amyloid in the brain; by contrast, the protective mutation slows beta amyloid production, so people make much less.