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Alzheimer''s disease

If both parents have Alzheimer's, the disease may show up in brain scans years before symptoms

Friday, February 21, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: Alzheimer''s disease, brain scans, symptoms

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(NaturalNews) Most people associate Alzheimer's disease with older individuals, and indeed, being diagnosed with the affliction generally does not happen until later in life.

But a new study, which was published recently in the medical journal Neurology, has found that people who are currently dementia-free but whose parents have both been diagnosed with Alzheimer's may begin to show signs of the disease in brain scans decades before they begin to show symptoms.

Could be partially hereditary

A research team that included Lisa Mosconi of the New York University School of Medicine examined and analyzed 52 people between the ages of 32 and 72 who were dementia-free. The participants were divided into four groups consisting of people who had a mother with Alzheimer's, a father with the condition, both parents with the disease and no parents with it.

The team conducted a series of brain scans on all subjects, including positron emission tomography (PET) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). PET scans measure overall brain activity and the amount of brain plaques; the latter creates images of brain structure, along with potential reductions in brain volume.

As reported by Medical News Today:

Results of the study revealed that participants whose mother and father both had Alzheimer's disease showed 5-10% more brain plaques in specific brain regions and more severe brain abnormalities in brain volume and metabolism, compared with people who had one parent or no family members with Alzheimer's disease.

The results seemed to indicate that Alzheimer's disease may have some hereditary elements.

"Studies show that by the time people come in for a diagnosis, there may be a large amount of irreversible brain damage already present," Mosconi said. "This is why it is ideal that we find signs of the disease in high-risk people before symptoms occur."

No cure on the horizon

In addition to their primary findings, the research team also discovered that people whose mothers had contracted Alzheimer's demonstrated a higher level of biomarkers of the disease in their brain scans than people who had fathers with the condition.

"The investigators note that this finding supports previous research showing that individuals who have mothers with Alzheimer's disease are more likely to develop the condition, compared with people who have fathers with the disease," Medical News Today reported.

"We do not yet know which genes, if any, are responsible for these early changes, and we hope that our study will be helpful to future genetic investigations," adds Mosconi.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, about 5 million Americans are living with the disease. Currently, it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

At the present time, there is no cure for the disease, but there are some drug- and non-drug treatments for some of its symptoms, the organization said.






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