Alzheimer’s May Be Detectable Years Before Onset

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More health news on the Alzheimer’s front: inherited forms of the disease may be detectable up to two decades before problems with memory and thinking develop. This is a promising health breakthrough that could lead to better treatment of this devastating disease.

The findings are significant because, by the time dementia symptoms appear, the disease has severely damaged the brain, making it nearly impossible to restore mental abilities and memories.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been involved in an international study looking at inherited forms of Alzheimer’s.

The researchers are following members of families who have mutations in one of three genes: amyloid precursor protein; presenilin 1; or presenilin 2. People with these mutations will develop Alzheimer’s disease early, between their 30s and their 50s, previous research has shown.

The researchers have found a way to predict the age of disease onset among study participants by referencing their parents. For instance, if a parent developed dementia at the age of 50 years, a child who inherited the mutation would be expected to develop dementia at roughly the same age. As a result, scientists have been able to track disease progression, including the many years Alzheimer’s is active in people’s brains but symptoms are not yet visible.

Interestingly, initial results of the study show that certain changes in spinal fluid could be detected years before dementia.

Based on what they have seen in their study population, the researchers have concluded so far that brain chemistry changes can be detected up to 20 years before the expected age of symptom onset. And, they conclude, these Alzheimer’s-related changes can be specifically targeted for preventative therapies.

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts the mind, gradually causing mental deterioration and dementia. There is, unfortunately, to this date, no recovery for those who have this degenerative disease of the brain. The disease attacks nerve cells in the brain, causing the person to lose control of their emotions, movement and memory. It is a frustrating and painful disease, both for the person living with Alzheimer’s and the people they love. This long-term disorder generally affects people over the age of 65 and is now the fourth leading cause of death in adults.