There is little doubt that Alzheimer’s disease is a very topical subject, so any information around it can be very useful. However, there is a tendency in the media to report on issues that present to the public as fearful, with some hope usually in the “tests are being conducted and the test/drug/treatment should be available in 2/5/10 years” category. I can’t recall when such a prediction has actually been realised, so don’t hold your breath. It is just that this article doesn’t help the average reader much in this way, nor does it give any indication about the test of what is being tested… so I won’t hold my breath.
When I qualified in medicine, Alzheimer’s was a rare disease confined to a young group of people and with genetic implications. The more modern and wider definition is a little bit like diabetes 2, it may be a catch-all for a wide range of disorders that affect nervous system functioning. And, principle amongst these and rather like diabetes, it is a case of rounding up the usual suspects – weight, more dietary habits, sedentary lifestyle etc etc.
So, my suggestion? Remember that if you’re worried about your memory and developing Alzheimer’s that you aren’t. People with Alzheimer’s don’t know it’s happening, only others do… and the upside is that every day they meet new people!
SCIENTISTS have developed a blood test that can reliably predict whether a person will develop dementia within the next three years.
Using markers in blood, the test determined, with more than 90 per cent accuracy. whether people were on the brink of developing Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Scientists believe the test could be ready for use in clinical studies in as few as two years and could pave the way for new, early treatments for the disease.
The degeneration of the brain is thought to begin well before the appearance of outward symptoms of Alzheimer’s, such as loss of memory. Scientists believe that treating the disease at this point, before serious damage occurs in the brain, could be more successful than late-stage treatment has proved.
Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Alzheimer’s disease begins to develop long before symptoms such as memory loss appear, but detecting the disease at this pre-symptomatic stage has so far proved difficult. More work is needed to confirm these findings, but a blood test to identify people at risk of Alzheimer’s would be a real step forward.”
There is no cure or effective treatment for Alzheimer’s and scientists believe this may be because patients have been treated too late in the process. There are 800,000 people with dementia in the UK and more than 110,000 in Australia.
Howard Federoff, a professor of neurology who led the research at Georgetown University in the US, said: “Our novel blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk for progressive cognitive decline and can change how patients, their families and treating physicians plan for and manage the disorder.” The study, published today in the journal Nature Medicine, included 525 healthy participants aged 70 and older who gave blood samples on enrolling and at various points in the study. During the course of the five-year study, 74 participants developed either mild Alzheimer’s or a condition known as amnestic MCI, in which the memory suddenly deteriorates.
In the study’s third year, the scientists selected 53 participants who developed dementia and 53 healthy controls. A comparison of their blood revealed ten lipids that appeared strongly linked to the emergence of Alzheimer’s. These markers were then used to try to identify the remaining 21 participants with dementia and 20 controls. “The lipid panel was able to distinguish with 90 per cent accuracy these two distinct groups: cognitively normal participants who would progress to MCI or within two to three years, and those who would remain normal in the near future,” said Professor Federoff.
The team is now designing a clinical trial aimed at identifying people at high risk of Alzheimer’s to test a drug that might delay or prevent the emergence of the disease.