This doesn’t sound like a good thing, but it is actually good news, as doctors may be able to detect the disease earlier and therefore increase the chances of successful treatment.
A team of researchers has described early indicators of the disease in a paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The first of these indicators is a drop of amyloid-beta in the spinal fluid, which can be detected 25 years before the most commons symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Other markers, such as ‘increased concentrations of tau protein in the CSF [spinal fluid] and an increase in brain atrophy,’ the researchers write, ‘were detected 15 years before expected symptom onset.’
‘A series of changes begins in the brain decades before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are noticed by patients or families, and this cascade of events may provide a timeline for symptomatic onset,’ says Dr Randall Bateman, co-author of the study and professor of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine. ‘As we learn more about the origins of Alzheimer’s to plan preventive treatments, this Alzheimer’s timeline will be invaluable for successful drug trials.’
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Randall J. Bateman, M.D., Chengjie Xiong, Ph.D., Tammie L.S. Benzinger, M.D., Ph.D., Anne M. Fagan, Ph.D., Alison Goate, Ph.D., Nick C. Fox, M.D., Daniel S. Marcus, Ph.D., Nigel J. Cairns, Ph.D., Xianyun Xie, M.S., Tyler M. Blazey, B.S., David M. Holtzman, Peter R. Schofield, Reisa A. Sperling, Stephen Salloway, & John C. Morris (2012). Clinical and Biomarker Changes in Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Disease New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1202753
Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias