According to a new study conducted by a group of researchers at Indiana University, Alzheimer’s disease evolves long before symptoms appear. The sneaky and degrading affection reveals itself in its initial stage as a genetic variant strongly tied to Alzheimer’s disease, promoting deposits of plaque in the brain for years, then slowly evolving to attack the nervous system.
It seems that classic symptoms of Alzheimer’s installation appear some time after the changes in the brain start to appear. The disease acts by slowly, silently and unknowingly taking over our brain functions, to ultimately evolve into actual symptoms, consequently leading to undeniable degradation until complete breakdown.
An extended study conducted on people with ages ranging from 45 to 75 has made scientists conclude that changes can happen in biomarkers starting with midlife of Alzheimer’s patients. By being able to notice the changes that biomarkers perform in our brains and bodies, doctors can more naturally assess whether an Alzheimer’s disease patient is exposed to dementia later in life or not.
The research was focused on individuals with serious memory dysfunctions who reported mental disorders in recent years or months. Research and analysis based on cognition and memory tests fail to provide evidence leading to Alzheimer’s diagnosis in these cases. The individuals who are known to fall in this category are exposed to “subjective cognitive decline”, as researchers state.
Further evidence shows how Alzheimer’s slowly starts its progression without common evidence leading to a certain diagnosis. Researchers found pathologies similar to Alzheimer’s from a wide range of biomarkers in the APOE e4 carriers. These include high levels of amyloid plaque, namely the mass of protein fragments usually found in the brain tissue of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.
To strengthen the hypothesis leading to a clear Alzheimer’s diagnosis outside common signs of the disease, doctors have also found a very low level of protein precursor of plaques in the cerebrospinal fluid, suggesting that the protein is delivered to the brain as part of the plaque creation process.
In patients with “significant memory concerns”, doctors found a high level of tau in the cerebrospinal fluid. This protein is strongly linked to Alzheimer’s as well.
The new study was performed on 600 patients with undiagnosed memory disorders. Researchers analyzed individuals with the APOE e4 gene and compared their findings with analysis performed on people with different forms of the gene. All the individuals were clinically tested and their cerebrospinal fluid was ultimately subjected to biomarker analysis and evaluation after three years.
Doctors aim to “use such measures to identify and treat people years before memory loss and other cognitive problems become apparent”.
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