Research undertaken by international research partnership Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN) has found that by using the medical history of patients from families with a history of Alzheimer’s it is possible to identify those people at risk and show a timeline that predicts the progression of the disease.
Speaking about the findings and the research, the director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, Professor Clive Ballard, said: “This important research highlights that key changes in the brain, linked to the inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease, happen decades before symptoms show, which may have major implications for diagnosis and treatment in the future.
“There are also good indications that these findings could apply to people with non-hereditary Alzheimer’s disease, but we can’t yet be sure. Further research into this complex condition is needed to confirm a definite link.”
By using the medical history scientists were able to estimate the age at which symptoms could start appearing, the earliest of these changes being a drop in spinal fluid levels within the key ingredient of Alzheimer’s brain plaques. These can be detected up to 25 years before the actual onset of Alzheimer’s, and the plaques can be seen on brain scans 15 years before a person starts to notice memory problems.
It is hoped that, amongst other things, the research can lead to better dementia care for patients.