Breakthrough finds possible indicator of dementia 10 years before symptoms develop

15-Aug-13
Article By: Julia Corbett, News Editor

An indicator for dementia as early as 10 years before symptoms develop has been discovered by scientists in Barcelona.

The aim of their small research project was to discover a novel biochemical marker in the body that precedes any clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Their findings reveal a possible biochemical marker that could signal the beginning of the disease in people 10 years before symptoms develop.

Using a study of 282 people, scientists discovered that people who had Alzheimer’s disease had a decreased amount of mitochondrial DNA in their spinal fluid compared to those that did not have the disease.

Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:

“Problems with mitochondria have already been linked to Alzheimer’s, which is why Alzheimer’s Research UK is currently funding research to further examine this link. This small study suggests that decreased mitochondrial DNA in cerebrospinal fluid may indicate the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, but more work is needed to confirm this in larger groups of people. It would be useful to see further studies investigate changes in mitochondrial DNA over time, to determine how long before symptoms such changes might be detected.”

According to the study completed by CSIC Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, the discovery that depleted mitochondria could suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is triggered a lot earlier than has been previously thought.

Experts believe that identifying dementia as early as possible could ensure that the disease could be prevented through early treatment.

The study suggests that if a treatment is found people could benefit 10 years in advance of people developing symptoms.

It is hoped that the new knowledge can help scientists to be able to find a treatment to tackle the disease at the earliest stages by blocking the degeneration and treat symptoms before they even appear.

Scientists have called for other laboratories and hospitals will carry out further tests to ensure that their findings are repeated.

Dr Janson continued: “These are intriguing early results, but findings like these can only be used to help the fight against Alzheimer’s if we continue to invest in research.

“We know Alzheimer’s begins to develop before symptoms appear, and the ability to detect the disease at this stage is crucial for recruiting the right people for clinical trials of potential new treatments.

“Research holds the potential to unlock ways to prevent Alzheimer’s, and identifying people at risk of the disease will be vital for new prevention strategies. Understanding the different changes that occur as the disease develops could also open new avenues for research, pointing to potential ways of stopping the disease in its tracks.”

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