Alzheimer's was recognizable years before the outbreak

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Alzheimer's: reduction in brain matter years before the onset of the disease

Alzheimer's disease can be seen years before the onset of the disease from a decrease in brain matter in certain areas of the brain, reports US scientists from Harvard Medical School / Boston, Massachusetts General Hospital / Boston and Rush University Medical Center / Chicago in the journal "Neurology" .

Bradford Dickerson of Harvard Medical School and colleagues explained that Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, would be recognizable almost a decade before the onset of the disease if appropriate diagnostic methods were developed. The studies by the US researchers have shown that the reduced brain substance in certain brain regions causes a three times higher risk of developing Alzheimer's. The US scientists explained that the brain substance can be used as a marker for the future Alzheimer's risk of those affected.

MRI scans to determine brain matter As part of their Alzheimer's study, the US researchers had examined around 60 people and accompanied them over a period of seven to eleven years. Only people over the age of 70 who did not have memory problems at the start of the study and showed no other signs of Alzheimer's were allowed to participate. One group was accompanied by 33 subjects over eleven years, the second with 32 participants over an average of seven years. In the first group, eight participants developed Alzheimer's, and in the second group, seven developed symptoms. As part of their study using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the US researchers had taken pictures of the brain in order to determine possible connections with later Alzheimer's diseases of the study participants. The US researchers focused their MRI scans on specific brain regions that had previously been linked to Alzheimer's. Bradford Dickerson and colleagues were then able to use the MRI images to determine the size or mass of the crucial brain regions.

Link between the size of the brain mass and Alzheimer's In the coming years of their Alzheimer's study, the US researchers found that there appears to be a link between the size of certain brain structures (e.g. hippocampus) and the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Six of the eleven study participants (55 percent) who had particularly small brain structures on the MRI images were diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the course of the study. Of the nine study participants with the largest brain mass in the corresponding brain regions, none had developed Alzheimer's disease. Of the study participants with average brain substance, 20 percent had Alzheimer's symptoms, the US researchers report. The study participants with very small brain structures were not only particularly often affected by Alzheimer's, but the neurodegenerative disease also occurred significantly faster than with the other study participants, the scientists explained.

New diagnostic methods for Alzheimer's early detection? Based on their current results, the US researchers hope to be able to determine the individual Alzheimer's risk of patients by MRI measurements of the brain substance. However, all previous results are "preliminary results that cannot yet be used outside of studies," said study author Bradford Dickerson. However, the US researchers were optimistic that the size of certain areas of the brain could soon be used as a marker for possible Alzheimer's. If a corresponding diagnostic procedure was developed, the neurodegenerative disease could from now on be recognized much earlier than before, which would be particularly important for those affected, according to the experts. Because a cure for Alzheimer's is not possible based on the current state of medical research, but a delay in the course of the disease is possible. If the patient was diagnosed early enough, several years could be gained in which they would remain viable, the US scientists explained.

Massive increase in dementia and Alzheimer's The results of the US researchers on early detection of Alzheimer's are particularly important against the background of current developments in the industrialized nations. Because the number of Alzheimer's and dementia diseases is expected to increase massively in the coming years in the course of demographic change. According to the German Alzheimer Society, around 1.2 million people already suffer from dementia in Germany, with two thirds of the patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease. However, the forecasts paint an even darker picture: According to the experts, the number of people affected will double by 2050. New methods for early detection could be extremely helpful in initiating appropriate countermeasures for individual patients. (fp)

Read about Alzheimer's:
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World Alzheimer's Day: experts warn of dementia
Alzheimer's is far from curable
Dementia and Alzheimer's
New vaccine can stop Alzheimer's
Study: depression promote dementia?
Memory loss: emotions remain
Alzheimer's Research: Billions Wasted?
Vegetables and fish for Alzheimer's prevention

Image: Gerd Altmann,

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