Families afflicted with Alzheimer’s never know how fast their loved ones are going to react to the disease, which can progress from confusion and memory-loss into full-blown dementia. But researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine have uncovered a way to predict the rate that Alzheimer’s disease will progress.
Until now, scientists involved in Alzheimer’s genetic research have focused on the risks of a person developing the disease, not the rate of progression. But this study suggests that elevated tau levels, along with a specific genetic marker could mean that Alzheimer’s symptoms may quickly advance from mild memory-loss to severe dementia.
Patients with both the genetic marker and high tau levels can progress six times faster into dementia than patients who possess one or neither of these indicators, according to the lead author of the study, Carlos Cruchaga, PhD of Washington University’s School of Medicine.
Cruchaga and his team looked at data from three separate studies and found the same association between tau levels in the CSF and rate of Alzheimer’s progression. Although their research was a compilation of studies, the researchers “are confident that the gene variant is associated with fast progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”
“This opens a new therapeutic approach,” said Cruchaga. “We hope that in the future we could develop a new therapy to delay the progression of the disease.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, evidence of the disease can exist for years in the brain chemistry of a patient before noticeable symptoms appear. For the families of those affected, the chance to learn how much time they have left with their loved ones can offer them solace…and, just maybe, a final opportunity to make new memories.