Biomarkers Predict Alzheimer’s Years Before Symptoms

Wednesday, 15 May 2013 03:39 PM

By Nick Tate

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A team of U.S. scientists has determined several biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease can predict which patients are likely to develop the disorder later in life — years before symptoms appear.
 
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reached their conclusions by studying spinal fluid samples and health records from 201 research participants at the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. What’s more, comparisons of various biomarkers indicated all were accurate predictors of the disorder’s development.
 
"We wanted to see if one marker was better than the other in predicting which of our participants would get cognitive impairment and when they would get it," said Catherine Roe, a research assistant professor of neurology. "We found no differences in the accuracy of the biomarkers."

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The study, published in the journal Neurology, evaluated markers, such as the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain and various proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid often seen in Alzheimer’s patients. The markers were studied in volunteers whose ages ranged from 45 to 88.
 
The researchers found that all of the markers were equally good at identifying individuals who were likely to develop cognitive problems and at predicting how soon they would become mentally impaired.
 
The scientists now plan to study whether sex, age, race, education, and other factors could improve their predictions of who might develop Alzheimer’s years before symptoms — such as memory loss — are evident.
 
"We can better predict future cognitive impairment when we combine biomarkers with patient characteristics," Roe said. "Knowing how accurate biomarkers are is important if we are going to someday be able to treat Alzheimer's before symptoms and slow or prevent the disease."
 
The study was funded, in part, by the National Institute on Aging.

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