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Medscape Medical News reported on the latest published research in Alzheimer’s disease on November 7, 2012 indicating individuals carrying a mutant gene for Alzheimer’s disease demonstrate markers 20 years before onset of memory changes. In addition to markers in the cerebral spinal fluid, the individuals show structural changes in the brain other than the amyloid plaques and tangles commonly found in patients with the disease.
Dr. Eric M. Reiman, the first author on this recent study, published his results in Lancet Neurology on November 6, 2012. His research group from the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, Arizona studied about 5000 people who carry the gene mutation that produces Alzheimer’s disease as early as age 45 years in Colombia.
Reiman and colleagues compared carriers of the gene with non-carriers and found structural differences in area of the brain called the hippocampus as well as less grey matter in some parietal lobes in individuals with the Alzheimer’s gene mutation. The parietal lobe resides at the top of the head after the frontal lobe and before the occipital lobe at the back of the head. The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to uncover the changes in the parietal lobe. These changes occurred 20 years before the onset of memory loss. By knowing these alterations exist early, researchers can study treatments and measure for differences at these sites.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Alzheimer’s disease causes the most common form of dementia that produces loss of thought control, memory and language. The disease usually affects men and women over the age of 60 years. The cause of Alzheimer’s disease remains presently unknown. Most scientists think several factors such as genetic, environmental and lifestyle contribute to the development of the disease. The discovery of changes in the parietal lobe and hippocampus add significantly to progress in the research.
The National Institute on Aging describes the importance of clinical research for uncovering causes, treatment modalities and disease prevention in Alzheimer’s disease. Patients or families interested in becoming involved in research trials can go the Clinical Trials.gov website for more information. The research trial website lists trials available in all 50 states and 181 countries.