Thursday, August 12, 2010

Will You Develop Alzheimer's Disease? Do a Spinal Tap and You May Find Out.

I had to share this extremely interesting study.  It is one of the many findings found from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), of which I worked a research coordinator for at the University of Kansas Medical Center site.  One of the large $60 million study's goals was to look for biomarkers for Alzheimer's Disease.  Previously, the only definitive confirmation of an Alzheimer's Disease diagnosis was autopsy, whereupon one could see plaques and tangles in the brain.  

Published on Tuesday in the Archives of Neurology, was an article using results from ADNI to predict who with memory loss would go on to develop Alzheimer's Disease.  The authors were 100% accurate in using spinal fluid to make this prediction.  The article is titled, "Diagnosis-Independent Alzheimer Disease Biomarker Signature in Cognitively Normal Elderly People."  

Also interesting was the fact that the authors found this Alzheimer's Disease "signature" biomarker (presence of beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles) in 36% of people who were cognitively "normal," or healthy people with no signs of memory loss.  Would you want to find out if you were going to develop Alzheimer's Disease or not?  It might be possible very soon.  

A cure though?  Not yet possible.  The current treatments for Alzheimer's Disease only treat symptoms, not the underlying disease.  This means the current medications will ease some of the disease's side effects, but the plaques and tangles will continue to build up in your brain and the disease will progress.  

Click here to read a NYTimes news article written about this same study.  

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