New methods for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease discovered

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Imagine the implications if Alzheimer’s disease could be detected earlier. It would impact the choice of treatment and inclusion of patients in clinical trials. A Large European study, led by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet, have researched new methods to examine the brain and spinal fluid to increase the chance of early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

We all know that there are no effective treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s disease currently in existence. However, it has become clear that in order for the disease to be treated successfully, earlier detection is necessary. Early detection would assist doctors and researchers in slowing or perhaps preventing the disease from spreading as early as possible.

Insoluble amyloid plaques which accumulates in the brain creates a clear sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Well, the presence of these plaques can be measured using a PET camera (positron emission tomography) to visualise radioactive tracer molecules that bind the amyloid plaques.

The amyloid levels can also be measured in the spinal fluid. Research has shown that the amyloid levels of the spinal fluid is reduced while we understand that amyloid accumulates in the brain with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers compare the amyloid-PET measurements in the brain with that of the amyloid- β42 in the spinal fluids to determine how well they align. These investigations were conducted across seven European memory clinics on 230 patients.

These patients were examined for memory disorders and received various diagnoses ranging from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer’s disease and various levels of dementia. Only a small group of healthy individuals were control subjects.

Researchers have used a new method called the centiliod methods to standardize the measured amyloid values on a unified scale as well. Samples of cerebrospinal fluid were measured at each hospital and all samples were also analysed centrally at Sahlgranska Hospital in Gothenburg, where levels of amyloid42 were measured.

After measurements, the research team hypothesised that the forms of β-amyloid found in the brain and spinal fluid were not completely identical. There was also a difference between the values measured in the brain and spinal fluid. This may conclude that in some obscure cases, the diagnosis should include a combination of amyloid PET scanning to complement the cerebrospinal fluid sample.

Although we are still long ways from discovering a cure for this dreadful disease, researchers and medical professionals etch a little closer by the day.

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