Alzheimer’s disease is a condition afflicting about 26 million people worldwide, a number that is estimated to markedly increase as a greater proportion of the population ages. Unfortunately, there are very few, if any, effective treatments to counter the disease, and scientists are still trying to figure out what causes it. One recent study published in the journal Neurology hopes to make some headway in Alzheimer’s research by suggesting that otherwise healthy people who display evidence of brain shrinkage in MRI images of specific areas of the cerebral cortex are three times more likely to develop the disease.
Dr. Brad Dickerson of Massachusetts General Hospital and his co-authors from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recruited two groups of healthy people in their 70s who underwent brain MRI scans and were followed for an average of nine years.
“We also found that those who express this MRI marker of the (sic) Alzheimer’s disease in the brain were three times more likely to develop dementia over the following ten years than those with higher measurements,” Dr. Dickerson added.
Just like other studies focused on Alzheimer’s disease, these results are only preliminary, and ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan laments that “there’s still so little that we can do to reverse, prevent or even treat this devastating disease.”
“The benefits of existing Alzheimer’s drugs are incremental at best,” says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross, “and since it’s such a devastating and increasingly common disease, we should be pulling all the stops to see if we can find biomarkers that have some degree of positive predictive power because currently, Alzheimer’s is already pretty far advanced by the time the diagnosis is secured.”
ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom adds, “It is possible that if the incipient disease is detected much earlier, existing drugs would be more effective in delaying onset or progression of the disease. It may be that by the time a patient is diagnosed now, it is too late for effective pharmaceutical intervention.”