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New test may help detect early Alzheimer’s

Consumer Reports News: June 22, 2011 05:32 PM

Measuring a spinal fluid protein might eventually help doctors detect Alzheimer’s disease early in people with slight memory problems, according to a study published online today in Neurology.

German researchers measured several proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease in fluid samples taken from the spinal columns of 58 people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). After an average of three years, 21 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease, 27 still had MCI, and eight reverted back to normal cognitive health.

Participants who developed Alzheimer’s had higher levels of a protein called soluble amyloid precursor protein beta in their spinal fluid than those who didn’t develop the disease. That protein, combined with the tau protein (an established marker of brain cell damage) and a participant’s age, was roughly 80 percent accurate in predicting the development of Alzheimer’s.

Bottom line: About 15 percent of people with mild cognitive impairment go on to develop Alzheimer's, a condition that affects nearly 4.5 million Americans. These findings suggest researchers are getting closer to a more accurate way of detecting and treating Alzheimer’s early.

See our tips on how to protect your memory and how protecting your heart can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. When drugs are necessary, see our Best Buy Drugs recommendations for Alzheimer’s medications.

CSF soluble amyloid precursor proteins in the diagnosis of incipient Alzheimer disease [Neurology]
Mild cognitive impairment: prevalence, prognosis, aetiology, and treatment [The Lancet]

Ginger Skinner

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