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According to recent findings, inherited forms of Alzheimer’s disease may be detectable as many as 20 years before problems with memory and thinking develop. (Journal of Neuroscience)

Frontrunners

Inherited Alzheimer’s Detectable 20 Years Before Dementia 

Inherited forms of Alzheimer’s disease may be detectable as many as 20 years before problems with memory and thinking develop, according to Washington University scientists.

Identifying Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages is a top priority for researchers. Many believe that by the time symptoms become apparent, the disease has already damaged the brain extensively, making it difficult or impossible to restore memory and other mental abilities.

“We want to prevent damage and loss of brain cells by intervening early in the disease process — even before outward symptoms are evident, because by then it may be too late,” says Randall Bateman, MD, an Alzheimer’s researcher at the School of Medicine. Bateman is also an associate director of the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN), an international study of inherited forms of Alzheimer’s.

Initial DIAN results confirm and expand upon insights from previous studies, including data suggesting that changes in the levels of biological markers in the spinal fluid can be ­detected years before dementia.

Scientists say the results demonstrate the feasibility of clinical trials to prevent Alzheimer’s in DIAN participants.

“If we can find a way to delay or prevent dementia symptoms in DIAN participants, that would be a tremendous success story and very helpful in our efforts to treat the much more common sporadic form of the illness,” says John C. Morris, MD, DIAN director and the ­Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker ­Friedman Professor of Neurology at Washington University.

Read more about this study in the university's Newsroom.

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