A research team at University College London has discovered that combining spinal fluid testing with MRI scans could provide an early indication if an individual is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The researchers analysed 105 cognitively normal individuals and grouped them into those with high and low levels of cerebrospinal fluid amyloid, a protein that is typically reduced in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
MRI scan measurements were taken over 12 months to calculate brain shrinkage, and the team also checked for other risk factors such as the presence of known Alzheimer’s risk gene APOE4.
The study results revealed that brains of normal individuals who had low levels of levels of cerebrospinal fluid amyloid (38% of the group), shrank twice as quickly as the other group.
The group was five times more likely to possess the APOE4 risk gene and had higher levels of tau – another culprit Alzheimer’s protein.
According to the researchers, the approach may allow scientists to test treatments or preventions for Alzheimer’s disease far earlier than at present.