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Blood test takes step toward predicting Alzheimer's risk, Stanford researchers find
Date:10/14/2007

STANFORD, Calif. - One of the most distressing aspects of Alzheimer's disease is the difficulty in determining whether mild memory problems are the beginning of an inevitable mental decline. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a blood test that is a step toward giving people an answer two to six years in advance of the onset of the disease.

The test identifies changes in a handful of proteins in blood plasma that cells use to convey messages to one another. The research team discovered a connection between shifts in the cells' dialog and the changes in the brain accompanying Alzheimer's. They found that the blood test could indicate who had Alzheimer's with 90 percent agreement with clinical diagnoses, and could predict the onset of Alzheimer's two to six years before symptoms appeared.

"Just as a psychiatrist can conclude a lot of things by listening to the words of a patient, so by 'listening' to different proteins we are measuring whether something is going wrong in the cells," said Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences and senior author of the study.

"It's not that the cells are using new words when something goes wrong," said Wyss-Coray. "It's just that some words are much stronger and some are much weaker; the chatter has a different tone."

The study will appear in the Oct. 15 advance online edition of Nature Medicine.

"I really think it has enormous potential," said Lennart Mucke, MD, director and senior investigator of the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease at the University of California-San Francisco, who did not participate in the study. "Most researchers in this field agree that there is an urgent need for better lab tests for Alzheimer's disease, and this study has addressed this need admirably."

Listening to cells' messages may not only lead to the first noninvasive diagnostic test for Alzheimer's; it cou
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Contact: Mitzi Baker
mabaker@stanford.edu
650-725-2106
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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