That’s a dilemma many of us may soon face. Researchers announced this week that they have found that a test that can identify Alzheimer’s disease with almost 100% accuracy, long before symptoms emerge. However, and here’s the rub, there is still no definitive treatment for the disease.
Although experts say the results of the study are promising, they caution that its practical implications are limited. “The reality is that many people are not going to want to do it,” predicts Lou-Ellen Barker, President of the NY chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The Alzheimer’s test measures two proteins, beta-amyloid and tau, in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), obtained by a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap. During the procedure, a doctor inserts a needle into the spinal canal and removes a small amount of CSF which is then examined for evidence of abnormal development of beta-amyloid proteins, which form plaques, and tau proteins, which form tangles. Both plaques and tangles are thought to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
In similar work, scientists from the UK, announced that they had developed a blood test, based on the protein clusterin, that could detect Alzheimer’s Disease years before clinical symptoms.
Either way, early diagnosis would allow researchers to monitor the stages of the disease far more closely and ensure early intervention with medications that may slow the progression of the disease. In addition, early detection would allow patients to make their voices heard and “get their affairs in order” before their minds slip.
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