Despite their excitement over the new findings, the researchers stress that the results still need to be replicated in much larger populations.
"There's a federally funded, multicenter trial going on right now that involves many more patients, in which many enrollees will undergo spinal taps and brain imaging," Relkin said. "We hope to link into that effort to expand on these findings."
The dream of a highly accurate Alzheimer's disease test that patients and doctors could use to diagnose illness and guide treatment is the ultimate goal. But the finding has important implications for current Alzheimer's research, as well.
"You might have a promising treatment for the disease, but how can you know for sure that it's impacting on the underlying pathology, rather than just easing outward symptoms as most of the drugs that we have now do"" Relkin said.
"We are hopeful that by monitoring changes in these cerebrospinal biomarkers, we can actually track the effectiveness ?or lack thereof ?of experimental drugs."
He continued: "In fact, we are now using this panel to study the effects of a promising new experimental treatment for Alzheimer's called IVIg (intravenous immunoglobulin). "Data gleaned from the use of this 23-protein screen suggests that IVIg may be having a positive impact on underlying disease processes."
And while a standard test for spotting early Alzheimer's disease is not in doctors' offices today, it could be in the not-too-distant future.
"These findings speak to the practicality of using biological markers for discerning whether symptoms are reflective of Alzheimer's, another dementia or normal aging," Relkin said. "And in this study, we're offering a much more sophisticated and better-validated approach than has ever been presented before."