Study may hold key to early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease

Discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s disease is one of the biggest focuses of the senior health community. The condition currently affects an estimated 500,000 Canadians, according to the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, and experts estimate its numbers will increase significantly as the population ages.

Despite the increased efforts toward finding a cure, there has been very little success over the years, but scientists are optimistic that some new findings could offer a potential breakthrough when it comes to treating Alzheimer’s.

Early diagnosis
The study, performed by scientists at the CSIC Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, relied on an extensive analysis of cerebral spinal fluid. Specifically, researchers were looking for a biomarker that could diagnose Alzheimer’s years before any physical symptoms show up. They discovered that low levels of a substance known as mitochondrial DNA in spinal fluid could be the early indicator researchers have long been looking for. Experts said diminished mitochondrial DNA could lower the mitochondria’s ability to protect neurons from damage. Should the results hold up, researchers say they could be game changing.

“If our initial findings can be replicated by other laboratories, the results will change the way we currently think about the causes of Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead author Dr. Ramon Trullas. “This discovery may enable us to search for more effective treatments that can be administered during the preclinical stage.”

Improvements to memory care
Early diagnosis is critical when it comes to most health issues, but this is especially true for Alzheimer’s. Recognizing the earliest signs can allow patients to receive treatment and memory care as soon as possible. While there might be some time before the recent findings from the CSIC Institute translate to better care, there are some other early symptoms family members should be on the lookout for that could indicate a loved one has Alzheimer’s.

Some of the most telling signs are mood swings and changes to personality. According to the Mayo Clinic, seniors with Alzheimer’s may be more confused, suspicious, fearful or anxious than before. They may also become more easily upset at home, work or places  that are unfamiliar. Other indicators something may be amiss are confusion with time or place, memory problems that disrupt everyday life and significant challenges in planning or solving problems.