In most cases, Alzheimer’s Disease is an affliction that cripples elderly patients, and the condition is only detected once several symptoms appear late into one’s life. However, a new study brings troubling prospects for individuals whose parents have both had Alzheimer’s Disease; according to the research, these patients may be detected with signs of Alzheimer’s by means of brain scans, well before the onset of symptoms.
Researchers from the New York University School of Medicine analyzed a total of 52 subjects ranging in age from 32 to 72, who showed no signs of dementia. The subjects were then divided into four groups – a group of people whose mothers had Alzheimer’s, a second group whose fathers suffered from the disease, a third group where both parents had the condition, and a fourth group where neither parent, or even relatives had suffered from the condition. All 52 individuals were then given brain scans, including positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. As it turned out, those from the third group, or those whose mother and father both had Alzheimer’s, had 5 to 10 percent more brain plaques in specific parts of the brain, and more pronounced brain abnormalities than those who only had one parent suffer from Alzheimer’s, or no family members with the disease.
In other takeaways from the study, people who had mothers with Alzheimer’s Disease had more biomarkers of the disease found in their brain scans, as compared to individuals whose fathers were afflicted by the disease. This backs up previous studies that showed similar findings, where individuals whose mothers had Alzheimer’s are more likely to have the disease later in life than those whose fathers had it. In all, the researchers believe that there may be genes that are conducive to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease in an individual, based on which parents, or on whether both parents, have the condition or not.
“We do not yet know which genes, if any, are responsible for these early changes, and we hope that our study will be helpful to future genetic investigations,” commented study head Lisa Mosconi. She added that by the time most individuals come in for a diagnosis, there is a possibility that they may have suffered a significant amount of irreversible brain damage. “This is why it is ideal that we find signs of the disease in high-risk people before symptoms occur,” she warned.
Results of the NYU School of Medicine’s findings were published in greater detail a few days ago on the Neurology journal.