Instead of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after already showing heavy signs of cognitive decline, The Daily Mail reports that researchers may have found a test revealing if a person is at risk for developing Alzheimer’s years before it would fully develop.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley have for the first time identified a link between certain proteins present in the brain and the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Using an advanced brain scanner, the researchers were able to reliably detect two proteins called “Tau” and “amyloid” in the brains of patients.
While these proteins are not dangerous on their own, when they become “tangled” with each other, they can cause this type of dementia to develop.
Being that these are the first signs of the disease detectable in the living rather than the dead, the identification of these proteins in brain scans could help doctors and patients prepare and manage the onset more effectively.
“Our study is the first to show the staging in people who are not only alive, but who have no signs of cognitive impairment,” said Dr William Jagust, Professor of Neuroscience at Berkeley.
“We can now very reliably and with a great degree of accuracy say that there are changes in a person’s brain that are very highly predictive that a person’s going to get Alzheimer’s,” he continued.
With 5.4 million people just in the U.S. currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a number projected to triple to 16 million by 2050, researchers around the world are working tirelessly to find any efficient diagnoses for this debilitating condition.
For example, the Israeli company NeuroQuest is working with UC San Diego to develop a blood test to diagnose Alzheimer’s very early, according to the Jewish Journal.
The procedure would test blood for novel biomarkers called activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP), which is essential for brain formation as well as cognitive function.
“This study has provided the basis to detect this biomarker in routine, non-invasive blood tests, and it is known that early intervention is invaluable to Alzheimer’s patients,” stated lead researcher Illana Gozes.
“We are now planning to take these preliminary findings forward into clinical trials — to create a pre-Alzheimer’s test that will help to tailor potential preventative treatments,” she continued.