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Medical Breakthroughs in the Quest to Identify Alzheimer’s

By August 29, 2014Dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is the most commonly diagnosed form of dementia. Though early-onset Alzheimer’s can be diagnosed in people as young as their 30s, it is most often diagnosed among people in their late 50s. When compared to Alzheimer’s that affects older adults over the age of 65, early-onset Alzheimer’s is thought to be inherited, genetically running in families.

Unfortunately, as with all forms of dementia, early diagnosis is extremely difficult. Most doctors encourage their patients to be aware of any family history of the disease and to keep track of memory loss symptoms.

Recent Breakthroughs in Diagnosis
When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, the earlier a medical expert can detect the condition, the better the outcome for the patient. Here’s a look at some of the most recent and promising breakthroughs:

The Spinal Fluid Test
Scientists from the University of Texas Medical School in Houston discovered and fine-tuned a new spinal fluid test that can detect the specific protein clusters linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers found that these protein clusters ultimately migrate into a patient’s spinal fluid several years before any of the Alzheimer’s symptoms occur. Since obtaining a sample of spinal fluid is extremely painful and dangerous for the patients, scientists are hard at work developing a new blood test to detect the protein clusters.

REST Protein Markers
Harvard University scientists recently discovered that something called the REST protein might help to protect seniors against Alzheimer’s. The REST protein is present in the brains of fetuses, but is inactivated after babies are born. However, once people reach approximately 65 years of age, the REST protein reactivates in the brain, protecting a select number of neurons from stress-related damage. Among seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, seniors noticed that the REST protein is depleted, suggesting that a boost of this specific protein could help seniors fight off the deadly form of dementia. Much more research is needed before this information will make a significant impact on the Alzheimer’s community.

Laser Eye Testing
Sapphire II is a new type of eye exam technology that experts hope will be able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in a matter of minutes. Developed by an Alzheimer’s research company, Sapphire II is a laser device and specialized eye ointment duo. Clinical trials have shown that the laser can detect classic beta-amyoid signatures in a senior’s eyes – a common sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

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