New Test Could Predict Alzheimer's - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/10/06

New Test Could Predict Alzheimer's

There is no cure for Alzheimer's, but every year researchers are learning more. Doctors at Mayo Clinic are studying a new test which could predict who will get the disease. It's information that could help doctors find ways to prevent it.

In the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, Hobart Joost, Jr.'s dad seemed okay. But he slowly declined.

"When it was bad, it was terrible," he said. "It got to where he would look at you and would try talk and he just couldn't talk. It would be nonsense. And to see a proud man like that come to something like that was just devastating."

Hobart Jr. has a nine-year-old son he wants to protect from the disease. So Hobart enrolled in a study at Mayo Clinic.

Researchers there are hoping to confirm whether a blood test can help predict some of the risk of who's going to get Alzheimer's.

It's sort of like a cholesterol test for heart disease.

"We're all familiar with cholesterol tests which show that high cholesterol effects heart disease or cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Neil Graff-Radford. "You can think of a blood test for Alzheimer's as reflecting some of the risks of who's going to get Alzheimer's disease."

Dr. Graff-Radford and Dr. Steven Younkin say the test measures the levels of two proteins in your blood: A-beta 40 and A-beta 42. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, the level of A-beta 42 starts to lower in your blood because it's collecting in your brain. The deposits form plaques, which are part of the pathology of Alzheimer's.

So if the blood test shows a low level of A-beta 42 compared to A-bets 40 in your blood, you are three times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

And this information will hopefully lead to treatments that will prevent people like Hobart and his son from getting Alzheimer's disease.

Doctors hope to study 3,000 patients. They hope to find other risk factors that will help predict who might get this disease.

Reported by: Jody Chapin, jchapin@wtoc.com

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