Changes in Cerebrospinal Fluid May Signal Early
MONDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Searching for a better screen
for early Alzheimer's disease, researchers think they have found a
marker of change in the brain that precedes the onset of the
disease by five to 10 years.
The indicator of trouble to come, they say, is a shift in the
levels of specific components of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in
the brain and spinal cord. Among patients already diagnosed with
mild cognitive impairment, a drop in such levels appears to be a
sign of Alzheimer's years before symptoms develop.
The discovery, published in the January issue of
Archives of General Psychiatry, could potentially aid in the use of disease-modifying therapies, which are designed to work best if applied when a patient is still in the early stages of disease.
"These markers can identify individuals at high risk for future [Alzheimer's disease] at least five to 10 years before conversion to dementia," study author Dr. Peder Buchhave, of Lund University and Skane University in Sweden, noted in a journal news release. "Hopefully, new therapies that can retard or even halt progression of the disease will soon be available. Together with an early and accurate diagnosis, such therapies could be initiated before neuronal degeneration is too widespread and patients are already demented."
The study results stem from more than nine years of follow-up to
prior research that had involved 137 patients diagnosed with mild
cognitive impairment, a mental state that often precedes
Over the course of the study, nearly 54 percent of the patients
went on to develop Alzheimer's, while another 16 percent were
ultimately diagnosed with different forms of dementia.
Specifically, among those who developed Alzheimer's, the
researchers found that key aspects of their cerebrospinal fluid
dropped off in the years before. In addition, other fluid
properties actually went up.
The study team said that they believe that about nine out of
every 10 patients with mild cognitive impairment who experience
such fluid shifts will eventually go on to develop Alzheimer's
Commenting on the study, one expert in the United States said
that the new research "provides confirmation of the general concept
that CSF can predict the progression of mild memory loss to mild
Dr. Sam Gandy, associate director of the Mount Sinai Alzheimer's
Disease Research Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New
York City, added that the results of the European study largely
echo those of a trial reported by researchers at the U.S. National
Institutes of Health in 2010.
He noted that methods of early detection might prove valuable
for research into the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
"Most new Alzheimer's drugs are aimed at reducing amyloid [protein plaque] accumulation, and the general consensus is that these drugs will only work at early or presymptomatic stages of disease," said Gandy, who is also Mount Sinai Chair in Alzheimer's Disease Research. "The new paper strengthens the likelihood that CSF biomarkers can be useful for identifying that population of subjects with early or presymptomatic disease in order to recruit them into trials."
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