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Protein Test for Alzheimer's Disease?

Scientists Spot 23 Proteins in Spinal Fluid That May Mark Alzheimer's Disease
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 12, 2006 -- Telltale proteins in fluid around the brain and spinal cord may lead to a new test for Alzheimer's disease.

Cornell University scientists have spotted 23 proteins in cerebrospinal fluid (which surrounds the brain and spinal cord) linked to Alzheimer's disease.

The findings are "promising" and might eventually help develop a new Alzheimer's test, write Erin Finehout, PhD, and colleagues.

There are no definitive Alzheimer's tests for living patients. So doctors give patients physical and mental tests to check for probable Alzheimer's disease.

"Typically, Alzheimer's disease is not diagnosed until the disease has already caused some amount of dementia," Finehout says in a Cornell news release. "Having a chemical test available may allow patients to be diagnosed earlier in the course of the disease."

Alzheimer's Test?

Alzheimer's disease has no cure. But early detection could help patients start treatment sooner.

The study by Finehout and colleagues appears in the Annals of Neurology.

The researchers screened cerebrospinal fluid samples from 34 people who had Alzheimer's disease and 34 people who didn't have Alzheimer's disease.

High-tech tests identified 23 proteins that may be markers of Alzheimer's disease. Most of those proteins are linked to hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease, including brain plaque and inflammation, the researchers note.

The proteins correctly identified 90% of the people who had Alzheimer's disease.

Finehout's team calls for larger, more diverse studies to check the findings.

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