Right now there is an enormous amount of ongoing research with one single goal in mind - how to detect Alzheimer's before memory and thinking problems rise to the level of cognitive impairment.
These 4 new methods were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2015.
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1. Six Factors May Identify People Most Likely to Get Alzheimer’s Disease
Research suggests that certain biological changes take place over time that signal the future onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms in people with otherwise normal memory and thinking skills.
Understanding which changes are most predictive of Alzheimer’s may help in the selection of candidates for clinical trials and help monitor an individual’s response to treatment or prevention strategies.
- Two memory and thinking tests (the Digit Symbol and Paired Associates Immediate Recall tests).
- Levels of two different proteins in CSF (amyloid beta and p-tau).
- Two MRI brain scans – one to assess the thickness of the right entorhinal cortex and another to measure the volume of the hippocampus, both of which are important for memory.
“Our study shows that – up to five years before any Alzheimer’s symptoms appear – a small set of factors can tell us, with significant accuracy, which cognitively normal individuals will develop mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s.
We hope that this information will be useful for designing clinical trials aimed at delaying the onset of symptoms among cognitively normal individuals. An approach such as ours could be used for determining which people might be most likely to benefit.”
- Marilyn Albert, PhD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Director of the Johns Hopkins Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.
2. Saliva Test May Identify Normal Aging, MCI, and Alzheimer’s – Early Results
Knowing that Alzheimer’s typically co-exists with certain metabolic disorders researchers are reporting success at identifying substances in saliva that differentiated among people with Alzheimer’s disease or normal aging.
“Saliva is easily obtained, safe and affordable, and has promising potential for predicting and tracking cognitive decline, but we’re in the very early stages of this work and much more research is needed.
Equally important is the possibility of using saliva to find targets for treatment to address the metabolic component of Alzheimer’s, which is still not well understood. This study brings us closer to solving that mystery.”
- Shraddha Sapkota, MSc, University of Alberta
3. Neurogranin, a CSF Biomarker for Synaptic Loss, Predicts Decline to Alzheimer’s Dementia
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) buffers and protects the brain and spinal cord; when the brain is injured or damaged, certain proteins are released into the CSF. Examining CSF has led to the discovery of proteins that are strongly linked to Alzheimer’s and can be useful in assessing an individual’s health status. One such protein is neurogranin.
Neurogranin is a protein found only in the brain and is involved in the communication pathways between brain cells, known as synaptic signaling pathways. Synapse damage and loss is a common, early feature of Alzheimer's and there is a strong correlation between the extent of synapse loss and the severity of dementia. Recent research shows that neurogranin levels in the CSF are elevated in people with Alzheimer’s.
“We found that neurogranin is a potentially useful marker for the diagnosis, prognosis and monitoring of Alzheimer’s.”
- Maartje Kester, MD, PhD, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands
4. Imaging Inflammation in the Brain – Is It In Our Future?
Inflammation in the brain is another condition being investigated for its role in Alzheimer’s.
Inflammation can be deadly to brain cells and may be activated by the plaques and tangles.
Microglial cells, as the brain’s immune cells, constitute the active immune defense in the central nervous system (CNS). They have the potential to either protect or – when activated – destroy critical links in the brain. Attempts have been made to develop treatments that keep the cells in a protective state.
“It is our hope that new imaging tools can help us assess the effectiveness of treatments that lessen the destructive behavior to brain cells.”
_ Andreas H. Jacobs, MD, Professor at the European Institute for Molecular Imaging
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Source of Information - Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2015
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