Researchers create early warning timeline for Alzheimer's
Researchers in the United States have created a timeline which shows how Alzheimer's disease develops undetected over a period of up to 25 years.
The team from Washington University School of Medicine looked at the family history of people believed to be at heightened risk of developing the disease due to genetics.
They found that traces of the cognitive condition can appear in some people as early as a quarter of a century before it fully develops in their brain.
Some 128 people in the assessment were found to have a 50 per cent chance of inheriting one of the three mutations which cause Alzheimer's early in people's lives (often in their 30s or 40s).
The study was conducted by looking into the ages that people's parents were when they developed the disorder to work out how soon a person may begin to show symptoms.
A series of blood and spinal fluid tests were conducted on participants as well as brain scans and mental ability assessments. The researchers found that the change associated with Alzheimer's disease – a drop in spinal fluid levels – can be detected up to 25 years before the onset of the condition itself.
Prof Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "This important research highlights that key changes in the brain, linked to the inherited form of Alzheimer's disease, happen decades before symptoms show, which may have major implications for diagnosis and treatment in the future.
"These findings are a good indicator that there may be key changes in the brain happening early in people who develop non-hereditary Alzheimer's disease, but we can't be sure. Further research into this complex condition is needed to confirm a definite link."
Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, added that a further ability to detect the condition early will help people plan care accordingly and receive treatments sooner.