Scientists have long been searching for biomarkers for early detection of Alzheimer's disease. Now, new research suggests that such markers might be apparent even earlier than thought.
In a study published this week in The Lancet Neurology, a team of researchers found that biomarkers linked to Alzheimer's were apparent at least 20 years before the onset of symptoms.
The findings came from a study of young adults from a population in Colombia with a high prevalence of a mutation in the presenilin 1, or PSEN1, gene, which leads to the development of Alzheimer's at an early age. In an analysis of 44 subjects — 20 who carried the mutation and 24 who did not — the researchers found differences in brain structure and function between the two groups.
They also found increased cerebrospinal fluid levels of amyloid beta — an established protein biomarker for Alzheimer's — in mutation carriers well in advance of clinical onset of the disease.
Alzheimer's is a key area of focus for the pharmaceutical industry, but drug development efforts have had little success with many researchers suggesting that by the time patients present with symptoms the disease may be too far progressed to treat effectively. It's hoped that early detection biomarkers could enable identification of presymptomatic Alzheimer's patients and improve their therapeutic options.