How to Diagnose Alzheimer’s Before Symptoms Emerge

A large study led by Lund University in Sweden has shown that people with Alzheimer's disease can now be identified before they experience any symptoms. It is now also possible to predict who will deteriorate within the next few years. The study is published in Nature Medicine, and is very timely in light of the recent development of new drugs for Alzheimer's disease.

It has long been known that there are two proteins linked to Alzheimer’sbeta-amyloid, which forms plaques in the brain, and tau, which at a later stage accumulates inside brain cells. Elevated levels of these proteins in combination with cognitive impairment have previously formed the basis for diagnosing Alzheimer's.

Changes occur in the brain between ten and twenty years before the patient experiences any clear symptoms, and it is only when tau begins to spread that the nerve cells die and the person in question experiences the first cognitive problems. This is why Alzheimer's is so difficult to diagnose in its early stages”, explains Oskar Hansson, senior physician in neurology at Skåne University Hospital and professor at Lund University.

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