Researchers at the Technical University Munich followed 58 people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that causes difficulties with memory and thinking skills, but does not interfere with everyday life. After three years, 21 people from the group had gone on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers measured levels of different proteins in samples of CSF that were taken at the start of the study. They found amounts of a protein called soluble amyloid precursor protein beta (sAPPβ) were significantly higher in people who went on to develop Alzheimer’s. Their findings are published online in Neurology today.
They also found the best predictor of Alzheimer’s was a person’s age, combined with their sAPPβ measurements and measurements of another protein called tau – a hallmark protein in Alzheimer’s that builds in the brain and causes cell death. Taken together, these factors were able to predict whether a person within the group would develop the disease with 80% accuracy.
Rebecca Wood, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“The ability to diagnose Alzheimer’s early is a key goal for doctors and researchers, which is why we are funding a variety of projects in this area, and this small study provides a potential new lead to follow up. We will need to see larger trials before we can know how accurate this method could be as a diagnostic test. It will also be important to see how measurements of these proteins compare to those found in healthy people.
“Diagnosing Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages would not only give patients access to existing treatments as early as possible – it would also allow new treatments to be tested on the right groups of people at the right time. There are currently 820,000 people affected by dementia in the UK, and with that number set to grow, it’s vital that we invest in research now.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK