Breakthrough in Accurately Detecting Alzheimer’s 10 Years Before Symptoms Appear
August 10, 2010
(ChattahBox)—-Researchers have successfully tested the spinal fluid of a group of patients that detects the existence of Alzheimer’s disease with 100 percent accuracy. Moreover, patients having no symptoms can undergo a spinal tap or a specialized PET scan that would show telltale signs of slowly-developing Alzheimer’s ten-years before memory loss emerges. Previously, Alzheimer’s could only be accurately detected with an autopsy. This new study has taken the field of Alzheimer’s research and completely turned it on its head.
Soon, patients and their doctors will be discussing, not only the need for undergoing Alzheimer’s testing, but also the ethical dilemma of whether a patient should be made aware of having a devastating brain disease, 10-years before symptoms appear. There is no cure for the disease, but patients could aid researchers in someday developing a treatment that could slow the progression of the disease.
During the research study, about a third of older patients having no symptoms, were found to have the two proteins pointing to Alzheimer’s. The researchers predict that these patients will develop memory problems over time, but they don’t know for sure.
The New York Times reports on the amazing breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research and the decisions on testing that will soon confront doctors and their patients:
“So the new results also give rise to a difficult question: Should doctors offer, or patients accept, commercially available spinal tap tests to find a disease that is yet untreatable? In the research studies, patients are often not told they may have the disease, but in practice in the real world, many may be told.”
“Some medical experts say it should be up to doctors and their patients. Others say doctors should refrain from using the spinal fluid test in their practices. They note that it is not reliable enough — results can vary by lab — and has been studied only in research settings where patients are carefully selected to have no other conditions, like strokes or depression, that could affect their memories.”
But there is no going back now. In the years ahead, with earlier detection and new research on patients not yet showing symptoms, a cure or significant treatment for Alzheimer’s could be developed in our lifetimes.
The entire study is available in the Archives of Neurology.