Researchers are continuing to make headway in learning more about Alzheimer's disease. A recent study by scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine compiled a comprehensive timeline of the brain's progression into Alzheimer's. The researchers studied 128 individuals who had genetic predisposition to the disease, and each patient had an estimated 50 percent chance of developing Alzheimer's.
"A series of changes begins in the brain decades before the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are noticed by patients or families, and this cascade of events may provide a timeline for symptomatic onset," said lead author Dr. Randall Bateman, professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "As we learn more about the origins of Alzheimer's to plan preventive treatments, this Alzheimer's timeline will be invaluable for successful drug trials."
The scientists estimated the time Alzheimer's would likely set in each patient by examining family history, and used this information to track a variety of markers for the disease that develop long before memory problems and other noticeable signs of the illness set in. For example, a decline in spinal fluid levels of certain elements of an Alzheimer's-related brain plaque can be caught as much as 25 years before the onset of the disease.
The new research found this plaque can be detected in a brain scan 15 years before the disease sets in and memory problems begin. This provides the possibility for new preventative treatment options to slow the progression of the disease. It could also further research for elder care options for individuals already living with Alzheimer's.