Recent studies have discovered that Alzheimer’s may be there long before symptoms appear, which can aid early on treatment. Between 60 and 70 percent of dementia cases are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a chronic neurodegenerative disease that affects short-term and long-term memory.
The speed of its progression is so far unpredictable as it varies from one case to another, but the average life expectancy is of three to nine years since the moment it’s diagnosed before ultimately the patient is led to death. So far, it is believed that the cause is 70% due to genetics.
Researchers have found a certain numbers of biomarkers that may lead to early on diagnosis by pointing fingers directly at the disease’s possible existence years before symptoms even manifest.
The study revolved around participants who have complained about memory loss, claiming trouble of recalling memories from years or even months back. Due to the fact that when they were tested, they fell within normal ranges, the group was deemed as the “subjective cognitive decline” group, weeded out from “significant memory concerns”.
The two authors of the study, Shannon L. Risacher, Ph.D., and Andrew J. Saykin, Psy.D, have gathered and examined data from 600 Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) patients. They were able to observe and draw conclusions based on genetic tests.
The gene most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s is APOE-4, one out of several types previously linked to increased risk of developing the neurodegenerative disease in older adults. It’s present in 25% of the population, but not all those who have the gene will develop Alzheimer’s, but it has been observed that most tend to develop symptoms earlier on.
According to their findings, there are changes happening in certain biomarkers mid life that could point to a future Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. After looking at the collected data from the participants, results were compared between those with the APOE-4 gene and those with other variants. Among the “significant memory concerns” group who did carry the aforementioned gene, they found several biomarkers typical of Alzheimer’s.
The biomarkers included the level of amyloid plaque, a protein more commonly present in the brain tissue of already diagnosed patients. Similar biomarkers were found in the cerebrospinal fluid, such as low levels of the protein responsible for the plaque’s formation, and tau protein, another factor associated with Alzheimer’s.
The study surrounds early onset of the disease, so researchers admitted they have not been able to find the usual lower level of glucose or brain atrophy that develop in much later stages.
It’s a step forward toward diagnosing Alzheimer’s much earlier than before or ever expected, and it’s the hopes of neurologists that they might be able to identify and start treatment before memory loss or other cognitive problems typical of the disease even appear.
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