American and Irish researchers have discovered that new tests designed to assess brain changes and body chemistry are showing significant promise at diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease in its earliest stages.
These findings, which were presented at a recent Alzheimer’s meeting in Vienna, Austria, represent the culmination of a five-year, $60 million-dollar study aimed at identifying the alterations in the human brain that signal the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.
According to news sources, a recent Irish study headed by Michael Ewers of Trinity College, Dublin and colleagues was accurately able to identify via scans measuring brain volume and a combination of memory tests, nearly 95% of 345 participants who had progressed from mild to early cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Success also occurred with American researchers who in a government-and industry-funded study involving more than 800 people, discovered that a type of brain scan measuring glucose combined with low scores on memory tests was a powerful predictor of the progression of the terrible mind-robbing disease.
“The idea is if there could be biological markers identified that tracked what was going on in the brain, this would give you a better idea of whether a drug was having a biological effect.”
Understanding how to effectively treat Alzheimer’s Disease represents a dark curtain researchers are always trying to pull open, and despite decades of serious research, doctors still don’t know a lot about this form of dementia that affects more than 26 million people globally and may affect as many as 100 million sufferers by 2050.
Part of the problem is that only an autopsy reveals the true markers of the disease and the neurological and memory tests administered are subjective in nature. This factor translates into large and costly trials for drug companies.
Cheaper trials may now result in more results due to these new findings. Other important studies have been conducted and more are expected. In one conceived at Duke University in North Carolina led by Dr. Allen Roses, it was discovered that a gene called TOMM40 raises Alzheimer’s risk. The gene predicted the age of Alzheimer’s development within a five- to seven-year window in people over 60. It is closely linked to another Alzheimer’s gene called ApoE4.
According once again to Buckholtz:
“The idea is we are trying to define the best biomarkers or combination of biomarkers that will allow us to assess progress.”
It looks like the clouds of mystery surrounding this terrible form of dementia may soon be lifted.