Science-- there's something for everyone

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Possible test for Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease (AD) affects more than 26 million people worldwide.  Although some of the symptoms can be temporarily alleviated, there is still no cure for this degenerative and ultimately fatal illness.  There may, however, be a way to predict who will succumb to AD, according to a new study.

The researchers examined the blood work of 86 people, half of whom went on to develop AD.  Among the differences were elevated levels of pregnancy zone protein (a protein normally found only in trace amounts in men or non-pregnant women) in women who went on to develop AD.  These women were over 60 years old and definitely not pregnant.  Intriguingly, pregnancy zone protein was produced in senile plaques within the brains of AD sufferers up to four years before the onset of symptoms.

Why is it so important to diagnose a disease for which there is no cure?  As I mentioned there are ways to postpone the end result and to temporarily keep symptoms to a minimum.  Early diagnosis is critical for this kind of treatment.  And who knows?  Perhaps for some people dementia can be staved off until a cure is found.