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New research links changes to the brain to Alzheimer’s
Posted on: 5th June 2019 at 9:45 am

Changes to the brain occur 34 years before any symptoms of Alzheimer’s

More than 35 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, this has led to many experts calling this a global epidemic. The estimates show that the presence of Alzheimer’s will double almost every 2 years.

You might be able to alleviate some of the symptoms by early detection and beginning therapeutic intervention, this would also be the right time to plan adequate care. Researchers believe that Alzheimer’s develops many years before the onset of any symptoms. This may happen 10 years before a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, emerging research shows this links to brain related Alzheimer’s. Although not quite exactly clear when these changes happen researchers have set out to detect more precise ‘Changepoints’ in the evolution of the Alzheimer’s biomarkers.

The study of brain ‘Changepoints’ in Alzheimer’s.

Prof. Younes and team reviewed 290 people who were at least 40 years old to find out when biochemical and anatomic change occur. The scientist’s accessed data from the BIOCARD project which aims to discover the cognitive decline through predictors. A study was carried out on willing participants with a majority having at least one first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s, which raised their risk of developing the condition by a significant amount.

Researchers accessed the participants’ cerebrospinal fluid samples and MRI scans, This information had been collected by scientists every 2 years between 1995 and 2013 as part of the BIOCARD study. The BIOCARD scientists then carried out five standard tests each year during the same period. These test’s examined the participants’ memory, learning, reading and attention. At the start of this study all the participants’ were deemed to be ‘cognitively normal’ but at the end of the study period 81 of the participants had developed factors of the Alzheimer’s disease.

TAU protein levels change 34 years before symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Johns Hopkins researchers found signs of cognitive impairment in the participants’ that developed Alzheimer’s, This can occur 11-15 years before the onset of any symptoms. Participants did not exhibit any symptoms but subtle signs were visible from slight changes in the cognitive test scores. Prof. Younes and colleagues also found raised levels of the TAU protein which is a biomarker of the Alzheimer’s disease. They detected higher levels of the protein in the participants’ as early as 34 years before symptom onset. Levels of a modified version of the TAU protein called “P-TAU” showed an increase 13 years before any visible symptoms of cognitive impairment appeared, using computer algorithms to track brain changes in the participants over time. Scientists assigned numbers to various parts of the brain and found that the rate at which the medial temporal changed was slightly different in the Alzheimer’s participants.

Changes to the medial temporal lobe can occur 3-9 years before the participants become symptomatic. The scientists noticed the changes to the medial temporal lobe, which also has an association with memory.

Study co-author and Johns Hopkins biomedical engineering director Michael I. Miller, Ph.D. Comments on the findings, He says, “Several biomedical and anatomic measures can be seen changing up to a decade or more before the onset of clinical symptoms.” “The goal,” he adds, “is to find the right combination of markers that indicate increased risk for cognitive impairment and to use that tool to guide eventual interventions to help stave it off.

Prof. Younes cautions that brain changes very considerably between people, the study sample was small, and there are not yet any therapies that we know to work against Alzheimer’s at such an early stage. However, the findings may lead to better diagnostic tests, which could, in turn, inform better treatment choices.

Prof. Younes says, “Our study suggests it may be possible to use brain imaging and spinal fluid analysis to assess the risk of Alzheimer’s disease at least 10 years or more before the most common symptoms, such as mild cognitive impairment, occur.”

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