Without any clear treatment currently available for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a great deal of research focus has gone into ways to predict who might be most at risk of developing the degenerative condition responsible for memory problems, loss of reasoning, and other signs that a person’s mind has begun to slip away to the frailties of age. One of the more recent developments in this area is the use of Alzheimer’s genetic signs to create a test that can assess a person’s risk of the disease well in advance of the dementia actually setting in.
The research is based in part on the observation that the more genetic markers a person had for Alzheimer’s disease, the smaller the hippocampus of the brain was. The observed relationship was noticeable, but small, and is supported by the fact that the hippocampus is linked to memory and emotion. It was also observed that the smaller the hippocampus, the more beta-amyloid protein was found. Beta-amyloid is the substance that eventually forms brain plaques during the progression of Alzheimer’s.
The genetic test in question was found to be able to query the status of the genome at thousands of different Alzheimer’s-linked sites and could predict who would be likely to develop Alzheimer’s within three years. When applied to a younger population, such predictive value was not observed. What was noticed is that the test appears to be able to tell who is at an unusually high risk for developing the symptoms of dementia later in life.
Although the genetic test does not currently have much use as a predictive tool among younger people, it can serve an important research and preventative role. Anyone who learns they are at higher risk of developing the symptoms of dementia can take proactive steps. This could include things such as enrolling in trials, for example ones seeking to develop dementia treatments or delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, memory loss, or mental decline in age.
Alzheimer’s disease represents a complicated interaction between genetics, environment, biology, aging, and other factors. This complexity does mean that there is still a long way to go before genetic tests become fully reliable. However the version produced by these researchers is a solid first step towards the future.
Source for Today’s Article:
The new study was published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, July 6, 2016; http://www.neurology.org/content/early/2016/07/06/WNL.0000000000002922.short