Skip to main content
Accessibility|Contact|Privacy|Terms of Service

Alzheimer's Damage Occurs Early in Life

  • Published: 2012-01-07 (Revised/Updated 2013-06-16) : Author: Lund University
  • Synopsis: Changes in the brain of a person with Alzheimers disease can be observed ten years before a person has become so ill that he or she can be diagnosed with the disease.
Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's Disease - The most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases.

Main Document

"As many as 91 per cent of the patients with mild memory impairment who had these risk markers went on to develop Alzheimer's within a ten-year period."

The first changes in the brain of a person with Alzheimer's disease can be observed as much as ten years in advance - ten years before the person in question has become so ill that he or she can be diagnosed with the disease. This is what a new study from Lund University in Sweden has found.

Physician Oskar Hansson and his research group are studying biomarkers - substances present in spinal fluid and linked to Alzheimer's disease. The group has studied close to 140 people with mild memory impairment, showing that a certain combination of markers (low levels of the substance beta-amyloid and high levels of the substance tau) indicate a high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in the future.

As many as 91 per cent of the patients with mild memory impairment who had these risk markers went on to develop Alzheimer's within a ten-year period. In contrast, those who had memory impairment but normal values for the markers did not run a higher risk of getting Alzheimer's than healthy individuals. Oskar Hansson previously carried out a study showing that pathological changes can be seen in the brain of an Alzheimer's patient five years before the diagnosis. The new study has thus doubled this time span to ten years.

"This is a very important finding with regard to the development of new therapies against the disease. All prospective therapies have so far shown to be ineffective in stopping the disease, and many people are concerned that the pharmaceutical companies will give up their efforts in this field. But these failures may depend on the fact that the new therapies were initiated too late. When a patient receives a diagnosis today, the damage has already gone too far," says Oskar Hansson.

With the help of the biomarkers studied by the group, pharmaceutical companies will now be able to identify the people with mild symptoms who run the highest risk of developing Alzheimer's within a ten-year period. These individuals can then be offered the opportunity of taking part in trials for new medicines, while those who run a low risk of developing the disease do not need to be involved. A new trial of this kind is already underway, on the basis of the earlier study by the Hansson group.

The 90 per cent accuracy of the risk markers means that they are not sufficient as the only method for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's. But if they can be combined with a clinical assessment and, for example, imaging of the blood flow in the brain, it should be possible to increase the level of accuracy, according to Oskar Hansson. However, this will only be relevant once drugs that are effective in slowing down the disease have been developed. Only then will it really be meaningful to identify patients earlier than is currently possible.

By observing how the levels of the biomarkers develop over the ten years before the patient's diagnosis, the research group has also been able to map the progression of the disease in the brain. The results indicate that it starts with a modified turnover of beta-amyloid. Only later is this followed by changes in the tau protein and damage to nerve cells. This can be important information for those developing new therapies for Alzheimer's.

The study has just been published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, see archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/69/1/98

Similar Topics

1 : Importance of Family History for Onset of Alzheimer's Disease : McGill University.
2 : Probiotics Improve Memory in People with Alzheimers Disease : Alzheimer's Research UK.
3 : Early Signs of Alzheimer's Disease - World's Most in Depth Study : .
4 : Is Alzheimer's an Autoimmune Disease - Study Shows Support it Could Be : Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.
5 : Link Between Vitamin D and Alzheimer's Disease : Thomas C. Weiss.
From our Alzheimer's Disease section - Full List (58 Items)


Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.


Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.


Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.


List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.


Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.





1 : Autism Prevalence Increases to 1 in 59 US Children
2 : Yelp Reviews of Nursing Homes Tend to Focus on Staff Attitudes and Responsiveness
3 : Non-Invasive Spinal Stimulation Enables Paralyzed People to Regain Use of Hands
4 : What if You Could Know Your Mild Cognitive Impairment Would Not Progress?
5 : Millennials Fail to Understand Dangers of Tanning
6 : Appetite Loss After Exercising Explained
7 : Bias Keeps Women with Higher Body Weight Away From the Doctor
8 : Smart Hoteliers are Building a Healthier Future


Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.

© 2004 - 2018 Disabled World™