New criteria may help detect Alzheimer’s early

Washington, Sep 18: Researchers have proposed a new diagnostic criteria which will enable physicians to detect and treat Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) in its earliest stages, when patients are experiencing only mild degrees of cognitive impairment.

The research, which was co-led by Dr. Howard Feldman, head of the Div. of Neurology in the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine, included investigators from countries like Japan, the U.S. and England.

The proposed criteria are based on studying the structure and function of the brain using advanced brain imaging techniques as well as looking at spinal fluid for the imprint of the disease.

Early detection of the disease will facilitate researchers to test vaccines that might be used preventively or to treat fully affected individuals, or other drug treatments that are directed at the earliest stages of the disease – the best time to decrease symptoms.

Existing criteria, established in 1984, involve a two-step approach of assessing functional disability and then looking for a cause, meaning diagnosis and treatment is delayed until patients have significant dementia symptoms.

“Integrating the profound neurobiological advances of the last 20 years allow for diagnoses based on more than declining functional ability. We now have advanced diagnostic tools – distinctive and reliable biological indicators that can be detected before the patient crosses the dementia threshold of disability,” Lancet quoted Feldman, as saying.

The new criteria proposed by the researchers signify a noteworthy shift and will direct scientists and clinicians to a different focus than has been pursued over the last decade, he adds.

New diagnostic measures include a clinical core of early, progressive and significant episodic memory loss plus one or more abnormal biomarkers (biological indicators) characteristic of AD, including atrophy (wasting) of the temporal lobe as shown on Magnetic Resonance Imaging; abnormal amyloid Beta protein concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid; a specific pattern showing reduced glucose metabolism on Positron Emission Tomography scans of the brain; and a genetic mutation for AD within the immediate family.

Researchers say that validation studies are needed to further investigate the criteria and improve their sensitivity, specificity and accuracy.

The study is published in Lancet Neurology. (With Inputs from ANI)