A Chemical Brain Change

Alzheimers identified by chemical changes found in the brains

August 27, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Doctors may soon be able to predict who is at risk for Alzheimer's disease by pinpointing chemical changes in the brain many years before symptoms develop.

A brain imaging scan successfully identified bio-chemical brain changes suggesting future development of Alzheimer's disease.  

Dr. Jonathan M. Schott of the Dementia Research Centre at University College London who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study said there is increasing evidence that Alzheimer's disease is associated with changes in the brain that begin many years before symptoms start to develop.

"Your doctor can suggest suitable Alzheimer's treatments."

Dr. Schott said that if doctors could identify patients in which the disease process has started but who have not yet developed symptoms, it would provide a window of opportunity for new treatments as they become available. Such treatments may be able to prevent or delay the beginning of memory loss and cognitive decline.

Researchers studied 311 individuals in their 70s and 80s with no cognitive problems selected from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging. An advanced brain imaging technique called proton MR spectroscopy was used to determine whether the participants had abnormalities in several brain metabolites that could be biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease.

Participants also received PET scans to determine the level of amyloid-beta deposits, plaques in the brain that are often one of the first signs of change in the brain from Alzheimer's. Investigators also had participants take tests to measure memory, language and other skills.

Investigators discovered that 33 percent of participants had significantly high levels of amyloid-beta deposits in their brains. Patients with high levels of amyloid-beta deposits also tended to have high levels of certain brain metabolites. Those with the high levels of metabolites were more likely to score lower on cognitive tests, regardless of the amount of amyloid-beta deposits in their brains.

This relationship suggested that some of the study participants already were in very early stages of the Alzheimer's disease. Additional research is still needed to determine the relationship between metabolites and amyloid-beta deposits, and which patients actually develop the disease.

The research was published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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Review Date: 
August 25, 2011
Last Updated:
August 27, 2011