How Testing is Done for Alzheimer’s
Mention Alzheimer’s and the aging population aren’t the only ones to take notice. An increasing number of younger family members and care givers will pay close attention too as the disease continues to ravage the ability of our aging population to take care of their own needs. The number of cases diagnosed and the age groups in which they occur are on the rise and that is just descriptive of the known documented cases. There are many cases that exist but have not had a clinical diagnosis in part due to the cost of testing for the presence of amyloids which are biomarkers for Alzheimer’s. Current testing includes expensive PET scans (positron emission tomography imaging) and testing CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) by way of a lumbar puncture or spinal tap.
New Testing Technique
A new technique for testing for amyloids via the bloodstream has been developed in Japan according to Nature Magazine. While it is new, it holds great promise for an increase in the number of diagnoses of Alzheimer’s which is important for two reasons. The first is of course the patient. Early diagnosis allows for some planning and preparation time for what is the eventual outcome of needing full time care. Even later stage diagnosis is important so that a shift in living arrangements and care can be promptly arranged. The more time allotted for preparation the greater the chance for a successful outcome of care.
The second reason is that less expensive testing will expand the base of clinical trials. Currently the mega pharmaceutical company Pfizer has announced it will stop pursuing treatments for the disorder out of “scientific and financial frustration” (www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-big-step-toward-a-blood-test-for-alzheimers) but the advent of less expensive Alzheimer testing, which can increase the number of clinical trials, may change the outlook of Pfizer decision makers.
This mass spectrometry amyloids test as described in the magazine Nature could spark a new surge in drug development to either a cure or to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Being able to inexpensively track the progression and increase in amyloids of clinical study participants will help to build new scientific data bases to study the disease. As of now in the most basic of explanations, amyloids that are deposited throughout the body are associated with mitochondrial dysfunction that results in the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can then initiate a signaling pathway which leads to apoptosis which is a process of programmed cell death. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amyloid). These amyloids attack various proteins in the human body and are in part responsible for twenty-one diseases; Alzheimer’s being one of the most prevalent.
Future Testing Outlook and What it Means for You.
So while this new testing mechanism is heralded as a boon to research of and testing for new drugs to address Alzheimer’s what good is it to you? First and foremost the fact that testing is now less expensive may bring more research organizations and pharmaceutical companies to open further testing and drug development. You can never tell when a cure or preventative measure to slow its onset may be discovered. In addition testing allows you, the individual to assess with your doctor the likelihood of contracting the disease or perhaps being able to define what stage you are already in.
Having concrete data about the future of your health can be empowering. This is the opportunity you have while still of sound mind to make plans to address the oncoming care issues you will face. Many seniors or near seniors have no interest in becoming a burden to their family. Care giving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is very difficult in the best of circumstances. Don’t be blindsided by Alzheimer’s. To be able to know if what you are experiencing is standard aging forgetfulness or the onset of this disease is critical to good planning and decision making for your future care.