German researchers say they are close to developing a new test that could offer early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, based on biomarkers found in patients’ spinal fluid.
The test, being developed by scientists at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy, would be able to differentiate patients with Alzheimer's from those with other types of dementia and help doctors design early treatment plans that could slow the progression of the fatal, brain-wasting disease.
"Previous studies have shown that Alzheimer's disease is associated with biochemical changes in specific proteins of the brain," said Annika Öhrfelt, a researcher at Sahlgrenska Academy. "This study has found that [testing for such proteins in spinal fluid] can differentiate patients with Alzheimer's disease from those … Parkinson disease dementia and other types of dementia."ALERT: 5 Signs You’ll Get Alzheimer’s Disease
Similarly, the biomarkers can differentiate patients with Parkinson disease from those with atypical Parkinsonian disorders.
"Additional studies are needed before the biomarkers can be used in clinical practice during the early stages of disease," said Öhrfelt, "but these results represent an important step along the way."
Differentiating patients with Alzheimer's from those with other types of dementia or Parkinson’s is difficult because the symptoms are so similar. But making a proper diagnosis early is key to planning effective treatments and medications.
For the new study, researchers identified five proteins in 450 patients at Skåne University Hospital and Sahlgrenska University Hospital that allowed them to differentiate between those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.