Detecting Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's may be detected in spinal fluid...and not have to wait till symptoms are evident for a diagnosis. 

Dr. Norman Relkin of New York Medical College says protein patterns found in spinal fluid may help detect Alzheimer's.

Currently, the disease can only be confirmed with a brain autopsy. "Right now we have to wait until people have symptoms before they can diagnose the disease. Ideally, what we would like to be able to do is effectively identify the disease before it even starts."  

In a study of Neurology Dr. Relkin reports that finding these patterns-or biomarkers- are like finding a fingerprint for the disease. This is an important step forward in understanding this devastating disease and how it develops.

But the test is not yet ready for clinical use.  Scientists believe a build up of abnormal proteins in and around nerve cells are at the root of Alzheimers disease.

The theory is that proteins turn into larger plaques that jam communication between nerve cells and progressively kills them. Dr. Relkin's spinal tap test is just one of several new ways of detecting Alzheimer's early. 

Seventy-two year old Walkter Kline, a former computer systems manager, started having memory problems three years ago. His doctors began taking pictures of his brain with a pet scan and found he was losing nerve cells over time. The diagnosis: Alzheimer's. 

But because the disease was caught early, Walter began medication--including Namenda and Rrazadyne to relieve the symptoms, even though the disease remains incurable.