A NEW treatment for Alzheimer's could spot signs of the illness before symptoms start, researchers have revealed.
Medics at Harvard and MIT said the findings of a recent study could help speed up treatments for the condition.
It's estimated that in the UK, around one in every 14 people in the population aged 65 and over has a form of the disease.
It's a debilitating illness, that causes a gradual loss of memory and other cognitive functions.
Slowing cognitive decline has proved challenging for medics, but the team in the US may have found a solution.
Senior author Dr Amit Khera said: “We developed a genetic predictor of Alzheimer’s disease associated with both clinical diagnosis and age-dependent cognitive decline.
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“By studying the circulating proteome of healthy individuals with very high versus low inherited risk, our team nominated new biomarkers of neurocognitive disease."
The medics stated that previous studies into treatments may have been unsuccessful due to how long the patient had already been suffering.
Manish Paranjpe of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in the US looked at data from 7.1million common DNA variants.
Using this they developed a method that predicts a person's risk of Alzheimer's.
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This, they said would depend on the DNA variant the person had.
They then trimmed down the data to 300,000 people.
The findings, published in Plos Genetics, give hope to millions of people.
Researchers say their DNA-based method is unlikely to be suitable for doctors to predict a patient’s risk of Alzheimer’s because it may be less accurate for non-European populations.
Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK explained that the risk of developing the disease comes down to a complex mix of our age, genetics and lifestyle.
The main signs of Alzheimer’s you need to know
- Memory: Regularly forgetting recent events, names and faces.
- Repetition: Becoming increasingly repetitive.
- Misplacing things: Regularly misplacing items or putting them in odd places.
- Confusion: Not sure of the date or time of day.
- Disorientation: People might be unsure of their whereabouts or get lost, particularly in unfamiliar places.
- Language: Problems finding the right words.
- Mood and behaviour: Some people become low in mood, anxious or irritable.
"The disease begins in the brain up to two decades before symptoms start to show and many researchers believe this is a critical time in which potential drugs are likely to have the best chance of success.
"Current ways of identifying people at greatest risk of Alzheimer’s are often based on a single genetic factor and mean that clinical trials for new treatments are not as efficient as they could be."
Dr Sancho said that by evaluating 7.1million gene variants, the team developed a more comprehensive genetic risk score for Alzheimer’s.
"This genetic risk score, like others that have been developed previously, is unlikely to be useful for screening people for Alzheimer’s or supporting an early diagnosis, but it could help to recruit people with early Alzheimer’s into clinical trials.
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"The researchers used their genetic risk scores to identify proteins whose levels changed in people at a high risk of the disease.
"Several of the proteins they identified have not been studied in Alzheimer’s research, and they may help to unlock new understanding of what causes the disease, provide new targets for future drugs, or have potential as biological markers that could help to identify people in the early stages.
“To realise the potential of these new discoveries it is critical researchers follow up these findings with more research.”
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