A new study appearing in Nature Medicine points to a simple blood test that can predict who is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease before the symptoms of the disease appear. With this new tool, scientists may be able to develop a new generation of therapies that can head off the disease.
There is an emerging consensus that one of the reasons why we have no effective treatment for Alzheimer’s is that once the cognitive problems associated with the disease are detected it may be too late to reverse or forestall the damage to the brain. By detecting Alzheimer’s early in its course, scientists might be able to intervene and slow or prevent its progression. In fact, there may already be an arsenal of potential drugs ready to be tested in patients at risk for Alzheimer’s; drugs that seemed to hold promise but failed in clinical trials, perhaps because they were given too late.
The findings emerged from the Rochester Aging Study, a five-year long effort that followed 425 seniors from the Rochester area (and another 100 from Irvine, California). The participants all started the study as cognitively “normal.” By the end of the five-year period, 28 individuals had developed Alzheimer’s or a precursor condition.
The researchers – led by UR neuropsychologist Mark Mapstone, Ph.D., and collaborators at UR, Georgetown University, and UC Irvine – then went back and looked at the blood samples taken at the beginning of the study. They found that those people who had converted to Alzheimer’s or the precursor conditions all had in common reduced levels of a set of 10 lipids found in blood plasma.
These lipid levels – which predicted with greater than 90 percent accuracy who would go on an develop cognitive problems – represent a class of molecules that support cell structure and the fluctuation may be an indication that cells are starting to die in the brain.
You can read more about the study here.
Mark Michaud |
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