Researchers are hoping for improvements in the way potential Alzheimer’s drugs are researched after they found that proteins in spinal fluid could detect the early stages of the disease.
Finding better ways to detect early-stage Alzheimer’s has long been a goal of Alzheimer’s experts, who are keen to develop drugs that can halt the disease’s progression in patients before too much damage is caused.
Lead researcher Dr Niklas Mattsson, of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, said that his team’s research – which involved patients with mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to the disease – suggested that early-stage Alzheimer’s could be accurately determined by proteins in spinal fluid.
“We confirmed in a large multi-centre study that these (cerebrospinal fluid) biomarkers may identify early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, which has previously been suggested in earlier smaller studies,” he said.
It is hoped that the Swedish research could lead to smaller clinical trials of drugs, with pharmaceutical firms currently having to rely on large-scale trials because other diagnostic measures, including neurological and memory tests, are not as accurate as the protein indicators.
Dr Mattsson added: “The drug industry certainly fears failure of these large scale studies and biomarkers may save millions of dollars in addition to allowing a more rapid development of efficient drugs.”
The study has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Copyright Press Association 2009