News: Spinal fluid test can predict Alzheimer’s disease

What would you do if you knew that you would eventually become one of the half-a-million Canadians currently struggling with

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What would you do if you knew that you would eventually become one of the half-a-million Canadians currently struggling with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or some form of dementia? What if you could predict it, years in advance? Researchers in Belgium have discovered that they can predict Alzheimer’s by analyzing spinal fluid, reports the CBC.

Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium studied over 400 individuals’those considered "cognitavely normal," as well as those with AD and those with a "mild cognitive impairment." They found that a specific protein signature was present in the spinal fluid of 90 percent of the individuals who had been diagnosed with AD and in 72 percent of those with a mild cognitive impairment. In the study’s findings, published in the Archives of Neurology, researchers concluded that the presence of this protein signature in more than one-third of "normal" subjects suggests that AD detectable earlier than experts had previously imagined.

In the U.S., spinal fluid analysis has not played a role in the assessment of individuals with cognitive impairments or suspected AD, explained Dr. Zara Herskovits of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dr. John Growdon of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in their editorial in the Archives of Neurology, noting that, “There is now ample evidence that these measurements have value; physicians need to formulate when and how to incorporate cerebrospinal fluid measurements into their practice.”

While Alzheimer’s disease does not have a cure, early detection may give people a chance to implement lifestyle changes’diet and exercise, for example’to slow its progression. However, knowing what we do about the outcome of this devastating illness, perhaps the real question is this: Would you want to know if Alzheimer’s disease was in your future?

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