AsianScientist (Jul. 16, 2012) – Scientists have observed clinical and biomarker changes in the spinal fluid and brain of Alzheimer’s patients up to 25 years before they show any clinical symptoms.
An international study published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine examined 128 people who have a genetic mutation inherited from their parents. This group of people, known as the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network, or DIAN, are likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease before the age of 60.
“This network is the first chance we have had to look for changes related to Alzheimer’s disease in living people that we know will develop the disease,” said co-author Prof. Peter Schofield, Executive Director of the Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) in Sydney which is one of the ten participating study sites.
The researchers identified a number of major landmarks in the way Alzheimer’s disease progresses; Around 25 years before Alzheimer’s disease symptoms were expected, levels of a protein called amyloid-beta (Aβ)42 declined in the cerebrospinal fluid.
Fifteen years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, abnormal deposits of amyloid-beta were detected. Increased levels of another protein called tau also appeared in the cerebrospinal fluid, while sections of the brain began to die.
Five years before the expected onset of symptoms, patients started to experience memory problems; three years after the onset of symptoms, patients met diagnostic criteria for dementia.
“There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and available treatments target symptoms of this disease only. By looking at changes in people before they show clinical signs of the disease, we will be able to develop more targeted treatments and identify the best window in which, one day, we may be able to prevent this disease altogether,” Schofield added.
The article can be found at: Bateman RJ et al. (2012) Clinical and Biomarker Changes in Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Disease.
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