|Evan Watson, NatureCity author & contributor|
A new test can detect the onset of Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages, before dementia symptoms appear and widespread damage occurs, according to the findings of a study published in the March 2009 issue of Annals of Neurology.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, evaluated the spinal fluid of 410 individuals between 55 and 90 years of age. A newly created standardized test was used to analyze the levels of two Alzheimer’s-related proteins in spinal fluid.
The researchers found that low levels of the amyloid beta protein in spinal fluid indicated a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. They presume the amyloid beta protein is accumulating in the brain as plaque, preventing it from reaching the spinal column.
They also found that high levels of another protein called tau in spinal fluid were associated with a higher Alzheimer’s risk. The release of this protein is thought to be the result of dying nerve cells, which discharge their contents as they expire.
Using this new test, the team was able to accurately predict which individuals would develop Alzheimer’s 87 percent of the time.
Furthermore, the test was able to rule out the onset of the disease in 95.2 percent of the participants. The researchers note that the results of this study are important because the best way to improve Alzheimer’s and minimize damage is by catching the disease early on, when there is more brain function there to preserve.
An estimated 26 million people currently suffer from Alzheimer’s globally and this number is expected to rise to a whopping 106 million by 2050. The identification of these important biomarkers of Alzheimer’s may help researchers develop better strategies for stopping the progression of the disease.