Combining two types of medical test could give an early indication of Alzheimer’s, a pilot study suggests.
It indicates that measuring a protein found in spinal fluid, followed by an MRI brain scan, could be a useful tool in pre-symptomatic diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
A team of academics at University College London studied 105 healthy people in their 70s and 80s.
First they measured levels of the protein, called cerebrospinal fluid amyloid, which is often depressed in Alzheimer’s sufferers. They then split the volunteers into two groups – those with high and low levels.
Next they undertook MRI scans over the following year to calculate brain shrinkage rates.
They found the brains of those with low levels of cerebrospinal fluid protein shrunk twice as quickly as those with higher levels.
Those with lower cerebrospinal fluid levels were also five times more likely to have a known risk gene for Alzheimer’s, the APOE4 gene.
Dr. Jonathan Schott of University College London’s Dementia Research Centre, said: “The significance of these findings will only be clear with longer clinical follow-up, but may suggest that these individuals are at increased risk of developing dementia. “If so these results add to a growing body of work suggesting that Alzheimer’s disease starts many years before the onset of symptoms.”
Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, which part-funded the project, said: “We are hamstrung by our inability to accurately detect Alzheimer’s, but these findings could prove to be pivotal.
“Spotting Alzheimer’s early is essential to the global research effort to beat the disease. We know that treatments for many diseases can be more successful if given early and this is likely to be true for Alzheimer’s.”