November marks National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Just like in September with World Alzheimer’s month, this campaign aims to spread awareness about dementia and how we can help those affected by the disease, which impacts almost 6 million people in the United States, and 50 million people worldwide.
Most campaigning around the event focuses on helping others learn about all forms of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form of the disease. This year’s campaign focused on the diagnosis of dementia.
Blood Testing Provides Hope for Future Diagnosis
Diagnosing dementia can be incredibly difficult, as there are no basic tests to determine whether someone has the disease, only baseline tests. However, there is an interesting development that may streamline the testing process and help with early treatments.
Research has indicated that blood testing for a specific Alzheimer’s protein, b-amyloid, may help reduce the cost and time of clinical trials. Amyloid builds up inside of a brain suffering from Alzheimer’s, initially appearing in small amounts before any symptoms appear, making early diagnosis incredibly challenging.
Trials for treatment drugs often focus on reducing amyloid, as the protein is thought to be the leading cause of the symptoms caused by Alzheimer’s. However, removing this is difficult as most patients receiving these trial treatments are already displaying symptoms, so the window to treat the cognitive decline may have already passed.
However, if we could identify the appearance of amyloids before symptoms appear, effective treatment that reduces significant may be possible. This new blood testing method, tested by scientists as UCL, has shown promise at greatly reducing current diagnostic times.
Current testing methods involve using special PET scanning technology to check the brain for build ups of amyloid. It’s both expensive and time consuming, with few specialized testing facilities.
As we need to test anti-amyloid drugs before any symptoms appear, multiple tests are needed to find enough participants for these trial treatments. The current cost of testing makes this unviable, which is why a new blood testing method looks to be a huge breakthrough.
While blood tests are still in early research phases, all signs are promising. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, with the possibility of opening new treatment options for the disease.
New Breakthroughs in the Cause of Alzheimer’s
Another promising breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research was announced during World Alzheimer’s Month, indicating the possible cause of the disease. While there are theories about the cause of Alzheimer’s, there is currently no known cause, making efforts in diagnosis and treatment especially difficult.
However, a new study by a team of Australian scientists appears to show some promise. There is research that indicates various risk factors for Alzheimer’s, including things like age and family history.
This research has indicated that the cause could be down to a toxic fat protein found in high levels in blood. Dr John Mamo, the lead author of the study, explains in an interview:
“[The study] shows that exaggerated abundance in blood of potentially toxic fat-protein complexes can damage microscopic brain blood vessels called capillaries and, thereafter, leak into the brain, causing inflammation and brain cell death.”
He goes on to say that this could help understand if certain things, like changes in diet and specific medications, could help reduce the blood concentration of these proteins, lowering the risk or reducing its progression.
Again, this is an early study that requires more research, as there were limitations, such as being conducted exclusively on animal subjects. Like the blood testing method, it proves welcome hope for the future treatment, and eventual eradication, of Alzheimer’s