Finding Alzheimer's Disease Before Symptoms Start
Baltimore, MD - Johns Hopkins researchers say that by measuring levels of certain proteins in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), they can predict when people will develop the cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s disease years before the first symptoms of memory loss appear.
Identifying such biomarkers could provide a long-sought tool to guide earlier use of potential drug treatments to prevent or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s while people are still cognitively normal.
To date, medications designed to stop the brain damage have failed in clinical trials, possibly, many researchers say, because they are given to those who already have symptoms and too much damage to overcome.
“When we see patients with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, we don’t say we will wait to treat you until you get congestive heart failure. Early treatments keep heart disease patients from getting worse, and it’s possible the same may be true for those with pre-symptomatic Alzheimer’s,” says Marilyn Albert, Ph.D., a professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
She is primary investigator of the study whose results are published in the Oct. 16 issue of the journal Neurology. “But it has been hard to see Alzheimer’s disease coming, even though we believe it begins developing in the brain a decade or more before the onset of symptoms,” she adds.
For the new study, the Hopkins team used CSF collected for the Biomarkers for Older Controls at Risk for Dementia (BIOCARD) project between 1995 and 2005, from 265 middle-aged healthy volunteers. Some three-quarters of the group had a close family member with Alzheimer’s disease, a factor putting them at higher than normal risk of developing the disorder. Annually during those years and again beginning in 2009, researchers gave the subjects a battery of neuropsychological tests and a physical exam. Continue>
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