Doctors may be able to predict if you'll develop Alzheimer's even before the early symptoms start, giving you a fighting chance against the disease. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University compared ratios of proteins found in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of Alzheimer's patients, with those of healthy participants, to see if the fluid could provide any indicator of Alzheimer's onset.
Preliminary results show variances in CSF protein ratios provided clues indicating future impairment, as early as five years before the onset of symptoms. Samples of CSF were collected annually from participants from 1995 to 2005. Since 2009, participants were given annual neuropsychological and physical tests.
Of the 265 participants studied, 53 have developed mild cognitive impairments or dementia. Around three-quarters of the volunteers sampled have close family members with Alzheimer's, putting them at a higher risk for developing the disease. Symptoms of Alzheimer's include daily forgetfulness like missing appointments, confusion, decreased judgement, and difficulty completing routine tasks.
"It has been hard to see Alzheimer's disease coming, even though we believe it begins developing in the brain a decade or more before the onset of symptoms," Johns Hopkins professor of neurology, Marilyn Albert, said in a release. Other methods of Alzheimer's detection include brain imaging and cognitive tests.
"When we see patients with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, we don't say we will wait to treat you until you get congestive heart failure. Early treatments keep heart disease patients from getting worse, and it's possible the same may be true for those with pre-symptomatic Alzheimer's," Albert said.
Medications for Alzheimer's typically fail, researchers believe, because symptoms have generally progressed and it can be difficult to reverse the damage. That's why the results of this study seem promising. Early detection of the disease could give doctors a chance to administer treatment, potentially delaying or even stopping the progression.
In another recent study, researchers found a sniff test involving peanut butter to be capable of confirming an Alzheimer's diagnosis.