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Archive for August, 2010

New Alzheimer’s Test

Friday, August 13th, 2010

On Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 a study was published in the Annals of Neurology which reported that a spinal tap test could successfully detect Alzheimer’s – with high accuracy – many years prior to any noticeable symptoms of the disease.

How is Alzheimer’s Perceived to Develop?

For those with Alzheimer’s, it is likely that brain changes occur at least 10 years before memory loss.  Two proteins located in the brain called Amyloid and Tau are thought to compromise communication between nerve cells and destroy brain tissue.  This spinal tap test can detect certain combinations of these two proteins which are typical of Alzheimer’s Disease.

This study found these signs, or ‘biomarkers’, of the disease in 90% of Alzheimer’s patients; in 72% of people with ‘mild cognitive impairment’; and in 36% of people who were thought to be ‘normal’.

In order to use these findings productively moving forward, specialists can conduct the test on patients in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s to then test current treatments.  Up until now, various medications have been used on many patients with moderate to advanced levels of Alzheimer’s with little to no positive results.  This research suggests that current treatments may be more effective if introduced to patients with only the very beginnings of Alzheimer’s in their brains.

Would You Want To Be Tested?

Given the fact that presently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, for many people this test may seem pointless.  If there is no way to stop it, why would we want to know that years down the road we will have this mind-crippling disease?

For others, knowing that Alzheimer’s is a definite reality in their future may offer a sense of control.  Having such knowledge may:

•    Help you make certain lifestyle decisions in the interim
•    Plan for the future in terms of living arrangements, finances, or your estate
•    Urge you to participate in upcoming clinical trials for possible treatments or even cures for the disease
•    Make you realize and value what is most important to you

What This Means for the Future

These latest research developments may bring us closer to what will hopefully be a cure in the future.  Before a cure is possible, there must be a way to detect the diagnosis early.  New or even existing treatments can be attempted on those will little to no symptoms.  It will be interesting to see if effective rises when implemented at a premature stage of the disease.  The hope we all share, is that successful treatments will eventually lead to a cure for this sad and unfortunate disease of the brain.

Information gathered from:  CBS News, CBC News, and The New Republic.

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