Tests May Predict Alzheimer’s Disease

A scanning test that aims to reveal the presence of Alzheimer’s disease may allow doctors to try to treat the illness in its early stages.

According to researchers, another study found that blood tests could indicate higher risks of dementia later in life.

Alzheimer’s disease is not curable and existing treatments only have limited effects notes Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.  Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of costly long-term care need among seniors.

The ability to precisely diagnose Alzheimer’s disease during life, which is now impossible, could lead to improved research.

The findings from the study were published Jan. 19 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Currently, doctors correctly diagnose Alzheimer’s disease about 85 percent of the time. The illness can be confirmed only through brain analysis after death.

In one of the new studies, researchers led by a team from Avid Radiopharmaceuticals reported that they were able to find signs of Alzheimer’s disease by using PET scanning technology. They had scanned 35 people who appeared to have the disease before their deaths and looked for signs of beta amyloid, a kind of gunk that clogs the brain in people with the illness.

The other study attempted to measure levels of beta amyloid in the blood. It linked lower levels — a sign that the gunk is getting tied up in the brain — to higher cognitive problems in 997 elderly people over a nine-year period.

The researchers also found that people with higher levels of “cognitive reserve” — such as those with higher levels of education and literacy — seemed to be buffered against dementia, said the study’s lead author at the University of California, San Francisco.

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