Inherited forms of Alzheimer's disease may be detectable as many as 20 years before problems with memory and thinking develop, scientists will report July 20, 2011, at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Paris.
Identifying Alzheimer's in its earliest stages is a top priority for researchers. Many think that by the time symptoms become apparent, Alzheimer's disease has already damaged the brain extensively, making it difficult or impossible to restore memory and other mental abilities.
"We want to prevent damage and loss of brain cells by intervening early in the disease process even before outward symptoms are evident, because by then it may be too late," says Alzheimer's researcher and physician Randall Bateman, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and an associate director of the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer's Network (DIAN), an international study of inherited forms of Alzheimer's.
Initial DIAN results confirm and expand upon earlier insights from studies of the more common sporadic forms of Alzheimer's, including data suggesting that changes in the levels of biological markers in the spinal fluid can be detected years before dementia.
Scientists say the results demonstrate the feasibility of clinical trials to prevent Alzheimer's in DIAN participants. Planning for those trials, which may start as early as next year, is currently under way.
"New treatments may have risks, so to treat patients prior to symptoms we must sure that we have a firm grasp on who will develop Alzheimer's dementia," says DIAN director John C. Morris, MD, Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Professor of Neurology at Washington University. "If we can find a way to delay or prevent dementia symptoms in DIAN participants, that would be a tremendous success story and very helpful in our efforts to treat the much more common sporadic form of the illness."
|Contact: Michael C. Purdy|
Washington University School of Medicine