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Early Detection Of Alzheimer's Just A Blood Test Away?

Amyloid-Plaque (Credit: Dr. Jean-Paul Vonsattel, Professor of Pathology, Director of the Taub Institute-New York Brain Bank, Columbia University Medical Center)Amyloid-Plaque (Credit: Dr. Jean-Paul Vonsattel, Professor of Pathology, Director of the Taub Institute-New York Brain Bank, Columbia University Medical Center)

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have discovered that a simple blood test might have major implications for the early detection and treatment of Alzheimer's Disease, before symptoms even occur. The blood test, in other words, can show a predisposition to Alzheimer's, a mentally and physically debilitating disease that is, eventually, fatal.

The groundbreaking results will be shared this week with the National Academy of Sciences in a paper entitled, "Blood draws can be done with relative ease and greater frequency than spinal taps, which is typically the way cerebrospinal fluid is collected."

Previously, an Alzheimer's marker, a peptide found in the plasma of early Alzheimer's patients, called Aß42, was drawn from spinal fluid, a very costly and painful procedure for the patient. However, the Columbia long-term study, has shown that high levels of the Aß42 appear in regular blood draws from patients who are in very early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. Furthermore, their study reveals that a the Aß42 blood levels increase as the patient gets closer to becoming symptomatic and abruptly declines after symptoms occur. At that point, the researchers surmise, the Aß42 becomes trapped in the brain, much like post heart attack patients show a decrease in lipid levels in the blood.

The findings of the Columbia group can lead to early diagnosis and intervention, as well as the development of therapeutic regimes and pharmaceuticals that will slow the onset of Alzheimer's Disease in non-symptomatic, but pathologically marked persons.

Most likely you know or have known at least one person with Alzheimer's Disease. This mentally and physically debilitating disease is affecting more than 5 million persons in the U.S. alone, and it is suspected that about 500,000 of us in our 30's, 40's, and 50's may have early markers of the disease. If we had early access to the Aß42, it could make a major difference in our lives.

Columbia University Medical Center (2008, September 10). Simple Blood Test For Alzheimer's? Researchers Seeking To Identify Alzheimer's Risk Focus On Specific Blood Biomarker. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 10, 2008, from Science Daily.com, Alzheimer's Association

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