Scientists have known for a while now that a build up of the protein beta-amyloid is common in sufferers with dementia, but more recent findings from a US study have now suggested that it is the slow clearance of this protein which causes the problem, not the build up itself.
In a relatively small study of 24 individuals with Alzheimer’s, experts from the University of St Louis measured the amount of beta-amyloid in the brain fluid of 12 patients with late-onset Alzheimer’s, and 12 patients who did not have the disease.
These levels were then sampled each hour for a period of 36 hours, the findings of which showed that the clearance of beta-amyloid in those with Alzheimer’s was 30 per cent slower than those without the disease.
Though the study was small and more in depth research is required, the researchers from the study are hopeful their findings mean that eventually beta-amyloid clearance rates could be measured in order to detect Alzheimer’s before the symptoms appear.
The study has been welcomed by the Alzheimer’s Society, and Dr Clive Ballard, director of research, said: “We now need further research to find out why the system is not working properly and whether amyloid is toxic in higher concentrations. The burning question is whether this process starts before the onset of symptoms as this could be vital to the development of new treatments.”