New 'weapon' in fight against Alzheimer's
Published 23/06/2011 | 05:00
A TEST that can spot Alzheimer's years before symptoms appear has the potential to be a "real weapon" against the disease, according to experts.
The test involves examining levels of two proteins found in spinal fluid which tend to be higher in people who go on to develop the brain disorder.
Alzheimer's is often preceded by a mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition which leads to memory loss and thinking problems.
About 15pc of people with MCI go on to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Others regain full cognitive powers, but doctors cannot predict which patients will develop Alzheimer's, or why.
Scientists have found that, by looking at concentrations of the two spinal fluid proteins together, they are able to tell in four out of five cases who will go on to develop Alzheimer's and who will not. Researchers at the Technical University in Munich analysed a number of spinal fluid proteins in 58 people with MCI, 21 of whom went on to develop Alzheimer's. They found that two proteins -- one called tau and another called soluble amyloid precursor protein beta (SAPPb) -- were particularly powerful predictors when combined with a person's age.
Tau, which can cause cell death when it builds in the brain, is a known marker for the disease. But the other, SAPPb, is a new finding.
The research was published this week in the journal 'Neurology'. The Alzheimer's Research Trust said spinal fluid protein tests "might be real weapons" in tackling the disease.
Professor Simon Lovestone, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, agreed that the discovery was important. He said: "If this finding is replicated in larger studies it would be a significant step forward."
Prof Lovestone is currently working on a blood test to detect the early signs of the disease to alleviate the need for a lumbar puncture, an invasive and often uncomfortable procedure required to extract samples of spinal fluid. (© Daily Telegraph, London).