News / Health

New Tests Provide Hope for Alzheimer's Early Detection

Dr. Madhav Thambisetty of the National Institute of Aging spearheaded a study that uses a blood test to detect levels of a protein in the brain that is thought to be a hallmark of Alzheimer's
Dr. Madhav Thambisetty of the National Institute of Aging spearheaded a study that uses a blood test to detect levels of a protein in the brain that is thought to be a hallmark of Alzheimer's

Multimedia

Carol Pearson

For the past 10 years, researchers have been looking for ways to slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative neurological illness that ultimately wipes away a person's ability to recognize family members and perform simple functions such as getting dressed or even swallowing. But now, there's hope that doctors will be able to catch the disease earlier and even stop its progression.  

Doctors know that people's brains start changing 10 to 15 years before they show symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Since there is no cure, at least not yet, researchers have been looking for inexpensive ways to test people early on so they can eventually delay - or even someday stop -  the progression of the disease.

Dr. Madhav Thambisetty is with the National Institute of Aging which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

"We're looking for blood proteins that might be indicative of the extent of brain damage that we know occurs very early on in patients with Alzheimer's disease," said Thambisetty.

Dr. Thambisetty spearheaded a study that uses a blood test to detect the levels of a particular protein in the brain, beta-amyloid, that is thought to be a hallmark of the disease.  Beta-amyloid is also present in spinal fluid of people with Alzheimer's.

The common ways to detect Alzheimer's disease are through brain scans using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or PET (positron emission tomography) scanning devices.  These tests are expensive.  Another method, taking a sample of a patient's spinal fluid, is invasive. A blood test would be cheap and could be given widely to seemingly healthy people before the symptoms of Alzheimer's set in.

In this particular study, researchers analyzed blood samples from 57 older volunteers who were symptom-free. They also measured the amyloid protein using PET scans.  They found that those with high blood levels of the protein had significantly greater amounts of it in the part of the brain that controls memory.

"Recent studies suggest that the deposition of amyloid might happen several years before symptoms of memory impairment begin in somebody with Alzheimer's disease," added Thambisetty.

Another test involves a new type of brain scan that could detect protein in the brain. The FDA recently held hearings on a dye that attaches to the protein and can be seen on PET scans. While PET scans are nothing new, the special radioactive dye is.

People who were near the end of their lives agreed to have both the brain scan, and after they died, an autopsy. The researchers reported that in almost all of the people who died during the study, the scan results matched those of the autopsies.

Dr. Thambisetty was part of an independent advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration. The panel recommended that the FDA give conditional approval for the drug.

Dr. Neil Buckholtz is chief of the dementias of aging branch of the National Institute on Aging. He says early intervention is key, as is learning how the brain changes before dementia sets in.

"Our hope is we will be able to identify the earliest changes that occur in the brain, how these changes progress over time, so that we'll be able to target those for drug intervention, and again, eventually we'll be able to slow the progression and, hopefully, stop the disease in its tracks," said Buckholtz.

There's a sense of urgency in the research to control the progression of Alzheimer's disease because people the world over are living longer. That means more people, more caregivers, more families and more health care money will be impacted by this disease which already affects 20 million people worldwide.

You May Like

Official: S. Sudan President, Rebel Leader to Meet in Tanzania

Talks part of effort to end conflict in country that has left more than 10,000 people dead, displaced more than 1.5 million others More

Dutch Deny Link to Mystery Submarine Off Sweden

Netherlands denies Russian claim that 'foreign vessel' photographed in waters off Sweden could be Dutch More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid