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A Blood Test May Predict Alzheimer’s In Seniors With MCI

October 22, 2009
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the term used to describe memory issues in older people that do not affect their normal, daily life. While some people with MCI develop Alzheimer’s disease within a few years, others don’t—their condition remains relatively stable and they have what is often jokingly referred to as “senior moments” of memory lapses. The question is how to predict MCI’s progression so that patients at risk of Alzheimer’s can begin therapy that could perhaps delay the start of dementia. A group of researchers, led by Professor Massimo Tabaton of the University of Genoa, Italy, have data that sheds light on this issue and point to a possible blood test that can answer the question. Published in the current issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, their findings show that the concentration in blood of amyloid beta "42," the toxic molecule that is believed to be the main cause of Alzheimer’s is, on average, higher in MCI cases that went on to develop AD approximately three years later. The values of amyloid beta in blood vary considerably among the patient groups they examined—those with MCI that developed into AD, those with MCI that remained stable and normal subjects. "This variability is likely very important," Dr. Tabaton noted, "but means that this needs further work before we can use this test for a definitive diagnosis." As a next step, the scientists are going to set up a test that picks up a variant of amyloid beta potentially more specific of the disease.