[This article first appeared in: Dementia Newsletter RWHT Volume 1 Issue 6 January 2011].
Researchers are looking at many drugs and treatments under development, but it is difficult to test how well these work currently because dementia is usually diagnosed only when the disease is well advanced.
“A new test for Alzheimer’s has been developed which can predict the onset of the disease with 95% accuracy in people suffering from memory problems.”
Researchers at the Institute of Neurology, University College of London, believe they may now have found a test for Alzheimer’s Disease at its earliest stage, which may be used years before symptoms appear. The test involves a lumbar puncture test combined with a brain scan to identify patients with early signs of dementia. This approach checks for (i) shrinkage of the brain and (ii) lower than normal levels of amyloid protein in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This new test may be used to select patients upon whom to evaluate new drug treatments which may help to slow or halt the disease.
The test is accurate because it has been found that the brains of individuals with low CSF levels of amyloid shrink twice as quickly. These individuals are also five times more likely to possess the APOE4 risk gene and have higher levels of the protein tau (another Alzheimer’s indicator).
Researchers are now looking for a different type of brain scan that might be used to detect amyloid, instead of having to persuade volounteers to endure the ordeal of an intrusive lumber puncture.
Roberts, M. (2010). Test for early Alzheimer’s seems possible. BBC News, Health, December 22nd 2010.
Schott, JM. Bartlett, JW. Fox, NC. [et al] (2010). Increased brain atrophy rates in cognitively normal adults with low CSF Aβ1-42. Annals of Neurology, 2010, [Epub ahead of print].