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5 Signs That Predict Alzheimer’s 25 Years Before Your Memory Fails

A new study has identified five key signs of Alzheimer's disease that can be detected up to 25 years before patients begin to suffer memory loss, this discovery has given researchers new hope of finding preventative treatments. 

A recent study involving 128 people from families with a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is giving researchers new hope.1

Looking at signs, detectable in spinal fluid and brain scans, scientists are looking for ways to better understand how the disease progresses in efforts to produce new treatments for the more common form of the disease, that is not inherited. 

A team at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis developed a ‘timeline’ of the disease and published their findings in The New England Journal of Medicine

The earliest change can be detected up to 25 years before the anticipated onset age, it’s a drop in spinal fluid levels of a key ingredient of Alzheimer’s brain plaques. 

The plaques associated with Alzheimer’s can also become visible up to 15 years before memory problems begin. In addition, a protein called tau begins to accumulate in the spinal fluid and areas of the brain begin to shrink as well. 

10 years out the brain begins to reduce its use of glucose and subtle memory problems in certain brain areas can be detected. 

The study’s author, Dr Randall Bateman, professor of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine, said:

"A series of changes begins in the brain decades before the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are noticed by patients or families, and this cascade of events may provide a timeline for symptomatic onset. 

"As we learn more about the origins of Alzheimer's to plan preventive treatments, this Alzheimer's timeline will be invaluable for successful drug trials." 

The clinical trials program director at the National Institute on Aging in America, Dr Laurie Ryan, said: "These exciting findings are the first to confirm what we have long suspected, that disease onset begins years before the first sign of cognitive decline or memory loss. 

"And while participants are at risk for the rare, genetic form of the disease, insights gained from the study will greatly inform our understanding of late-onset Alzheimer's disease." 

And director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, Professor Clive Ballard said: "This important research highlights that key changes in the brain, linked to the inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease, happen decades before symptoms show, which may have major implications for diagnosis and treatment in the future. 

"There are also good indications that these findings could apply to people with non-hereditary Alzheimer’s disease, but we can’t yet be sure. Further research into this complex condition is needed to confirm a definite link."

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References:

1. Bateman, Randall J. et al. "Clinical And Biomarker Changes In Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer's Disease." New England Journal of Medicine 367.9 (2012): 795-804.

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