Scientists report a new, relatively cheap, and noninvasive model for predicting Alzheimer’s disease in people with mild cognitive impairment.
Scientists at Lund University in Sweden have developed a new model for predicting Alzheimer’s disease in people presenting with mild cognitive impairment.
The model analyzes proteins in blood samples. It is less invasive and less expensive than other prognostic tools and produces equivalent or better predictions.
The authors, who published their paper in the journal Nature Aging, call for further large-scale studies to confirm their findings.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5.8 million older adults in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disease. At its mildest, it can cause a person to experience minor memory loss, while at its most severe, it can leave a person unable to respond to the world around them.
The disease typically affects people over the age of 65 years, and the risk increases as people get older.
Mild cognitive impairment — such as having problems remembering things — can be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s. However, this is not always the case. Mild cognitive impairment may stay stable over time and be unrelated to Alzheimer’s disease.
Not knowing whether mild cognitive impairment will lead to Alzheimer’s can cause anxiety for those it affects and their family.
Prof. Oskar Hansson — a professor in neurology at Lund University, a consultant at the clinical memory research unit at Skåne University Hospital, Sweden, and a corresponding author of the study — notes that “[m]any people with Alzheimer’s disease currently seek care when they have only developed mild memory impairment, meaning many years before the dementia stage of the disease.”
“It is often difficult for doctors to give the correct diagnosis in people with milder memory impairment, as many different conditions other than Alzheimer’s can be the cause,” he adds.
However, current tests to determine whether mild cognitive impairment is likely to lead to Alzheimer’s come with issues.
Cerebrospinal fluid, which doctors take from a person’s spine through a lumbar puncture, can reflect the brain’s metabolism and pathology. Therefore, it can enable clinicians to identify Alzheimer’s disease prior to the onset of severe symptoms.
However, as the scientists behind the present study note, lumbar punctures are invasive, and this may be off-putting for some people.
Alternatively, doctors can use positron emission tomography imaging to identify early forms of Alzheimer’s. However, this procedure is expensive, and the technology to perform the imaging may not be available in all healthcare settings.
As a consequence, the scientists behind the present study wanted to determine whether it was possible to develop a less invasive and expensive way of predicting Alzheimer’s disease in people with mild cognitive impairment.
The scientists began by looking at biomarkers in the blood of 573 people who had mild cognitive impairment but not dementia. Biomarkers are particular biological characteristics that can