Jun 20, 2011

Predict AD, New Methods to Detect Alzheimer’s

How many times have your heard these words, "s/he sounds pretty good to me". Most Alzheimer's caregivers really don't like hearing those words, particularly in the beginning when their head is still spinning and they are trying to get a "grip on their seat in the front row".

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

I really don't know what percentage of Alzheimer's patients get a "fully baked" diagnosis. I do know this. I ask this simple question all the time, "did you get a written hard copy of the diagnosis"? The answer is almost always the same, No.

I always recommend that a hard copy of the diagnosis be obtained. No, the diagnosis letter is not easy to read from an emotional point of view. I didn't open and read ours for a day or two. I needed to get mentally prepared. I knew the impact it was going to have on me. Leave no doubt.

I believed then and I believe now, that is important for every Alzheimer's caregiver to obtain, read, and deal with the diagnosis letter.

It doesn't stop there. You now have a hard copy diagnosis to show family, relatives, and friends. Most caregivers will tell you that others either "deny" or "disbelieve" that a person is suffering from Alzheimer's.

How many times have your heard these words, "s/he sounds pretty good to me". Most Alzheimer's caregivers really don't like hearing those words, particularly in the beginning when their head is still spinning and they are trying to get a "grip on their seat in the front row".

I also recommend the hard copy diagnosis for this reason. I am told in person and via email all the time that family and friends run away. They don't help.

Here is something I know from experience. You can only control yourself and your own situation. You cannot control the behavior of others. However, if you hand them the hard copy diagnosis and then watch them run, you'll know this -- you took control of your own life.

I can assure you, when you know you take control of the situation to the degree you can, you feel relieved. Relieved that you did everything you could do.

If family, relatives, and friends want run, so be it. They will run with the knowledge that they are abandoning a vulnerable person suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Why let their bad behavior drive you "crazy" day after day, year after year, is not pleasant, and it is not necessary.

You are the good person in this equation. Not the bad person.

The following research is interesting and explains the current state of affairs in Alzheimer's detection, and give a glimpse of the future.

I am wondering if this will lead to "cheaper" and more "effective diagnosis". If this research produces an effective, "cheaper" test; more people will get a fully baked diagnosis. Cheaper means health care companies and personal care physicians won't short cut the process and will stop using the dart board approach to diagnosis.

New Methods to Detect Alzheimer’s

A new European research project known as Predict AD, has been created to develop successful methods for enabling earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The diagnosis requires a holistic view of the patient combining information from several sources, such as clinical tests, imaging and blood samples.

"Current diagnostic guidelines emphasize the importance of various biomarkers in diagnostics. We have developed novel approaches to extract biomarkers from imaging data, electrophysiological data and blood samples, and a unique and clinically useful software tool for integrating all these heterogeneous measurements,” Dr. Jyrki Lötjönen of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and scientific coordinator of the project, was quoted saying.

There are several methods for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s that the European scientists have created. Firstly however, atrophy, which means to have a tissue decrease or waste away, in the mediotemporal lobe is a well-known hallmark of Alzheimer’s, and magnetic resonance imaging is an excellent tool for measuring this tissue loss.

Currently, in clinical practices brain images are looked at mostly only by visual inspection and there is a great need for objective measurements.

That's PredictAD’s first method,
“We have managed to develop efficient tools for measuring the size of the hippocampus, the atrophy rate of the hippocampus, and two modern approaches based on comparing patient data with previously diagnosed cases available in large databases," Daniel Rueckert of Imperial College in London and leader of the imaging biomarkers work-package, was quoted saying.
An innovative tracer developed recently especially for diagnostics of Alzheimer's disease provides promise for very early diagnosis of the disease.

Alzheimer's disease is known to affect the electromagnetic activity of the brain. The scientists have studied the performance of another piece of technology; transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) combined with electroencephalographic (EEG) measures in detecting the disease. The strength of TMS/EEG is that it allows direct and non-invasive perturbation of the human cerebral cortex without requiring the subject's collaboration. The study has shown significant changes in Alzheimer's patients compared with healthy aging people.

Molecular level biomarkers are also currently under extensive studies in Alzheimer's research. Many biomarkers are measured from the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the liquid surrounding the cerebral cortex, have been found to be strongly related with the disease.

One major challenge of these biomarkers is that taking samples from CSF is an invasive measurement limiting their usability in early diagnostics. Blood samples would be an excellent source for detecting Alzheimer's disease. PredictAD has studied the role of metabolomic and protein compounds in Alzheimer's disease from blood samples.

The preliminary results reveal several promising compounds.

The PredictAD project continues to take important steps towards an early approach to Alzheimer's disease prediction and management.

SOURCE: PredictAD’s workshop in Kuopio, Finland, June 16, 2011.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 2,680 articles with more than 512,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room