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Researchers use biomarkers to help identify Alzheimer’s disease years before symptoms develop

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A team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis (MO, USA), who have previously contributed to identifying many of the potential biomarkers for predicting Alzheimer’s disease in later life, have now reported that the markers are accurate predictors of the disease prior to the development of symptoms.

In a study involving 201 research patients, with ages ranging from 45 to 88 years, the scientists evaluated different markers including the build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain (utilizing an imaging agent developed in the last decade); protein levels in cerebrospinal fluid, such as that of amyloid fragments; and the ratios of one protein to another within the cerebrospinal fluid, including different forms of the protein tau, which is highly abundant in the neurons of the CNS and shown to accumulate in Alzheimer’s disease.

Catherine Roe, Research Assistant Professor of neurology at the university commented, “We wanted to see if one marker was better than the other in predicting which of our participants would get cognitive impairment and when they would get it. We found no differences in the accuracy of the biomarkers.”

The researchers then studied the biomarker data with demographic factors to see if this other information could improve their predictions.

“Sex, age and race all helped to predict who would develop cognitive impairment,” said Roe. “Older participants, men and African Americans were more likely to become cognitively impaired than those who were younger, female and Caucasian.

“We can better predict future cognitive impairment when we combine biomarkers with patient characteristics. Knowing how accurate biomarkers are is important if we are going to some day be able to treat Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms appear, and slow or prevent the disease.”

Clinical trials are currently underway at Washington University and elsewhere to determine if treatments prior to the appearance of symptoms can prevent or delay inherited forms of the disease.

Source: Alzheimer’s markers predict start of mental decline.

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