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Brain damage found in cognitively normal people with Alzheimer's marker
Date:3/10/2009

March 10, 2009 -- Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have linked a potential indicator of Alzheimer's disease to brain damage in humans with no signs of mental impairment.

Although their cognitive and neurological assessments were normal, study participants with lower levels of a substance known as amyloid beta 42 (A-beta 42) in their cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) had reduced whole brain volumes, suggesting that Alzheimer's changes might already be damaging their brains. Scientists previously showed that low CSF levels of A-beta 42 mark the presence of amyloid deposition in the brain, a key diagnostic marker of the amyloid plaques that characterize Alzheimer's disease.

Evidence is mounting that Alzheimer's harms the brain for many years before physicians and family members can detect symptoms, and this has led many to conclude that successful Alzheimer's treatments may only be possible if scientists find ways to identify pre-symptomatic sufferers.

The results are an encouraging sign that this search for new indicators, known as antecedent biomarkers, may be succeeding, according to senior author David M. Holtzman, M.D., the Andrew and Gretchen Jones Professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at the School of Medicine and neurologist-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

"We still need to confirm with long-term follow-up studies that subjects with this biomarker and brain damage go on to develop the cognitive changes characteristic of Alzheimer's," says Holtzman. "For now, the evidence we've uncovered further proves that identification and treatment prior to the start of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are likely going to be essential to preventing irreversible brain injury."

The results were published in the February issue of Annals of Neurology.

A-beta 42 is a protein fragment that clumps together in the brain to form the plaques that have long been the diagnos
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Contact: Michael C. Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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