Many seniors aged 65 or older experience “age-associated memory impairment,” a normal aging process. However, Alzheimer’s disease is different, and not a normal part of aging. Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease with gradual loss of nerve cells and resulting problems with thinking, memory, and movement. Changes in the brain can start to happen 20 years before any memory problems appear.
Currently, no treatments are available to cure Alzheimer’s disease; however, if the disease is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, patients have a greatly improved quality of life.
Measurement of some proteins in a body fluid found in the brain and spinal cord has been used to aid in diagnosis. The sample collection is performed by inserting a needle into the spinal canal. People are usually reluctant to take the test, which causes a delay in diagnosis.
Dr. Shi’s research aims to develop a new test that could help doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage. This new test is different from the current tests in two ways in that it uses blood instead of spinal fluid, which is much easier to get through venipuncture; and uses a new technique that is more sensitive and specific.
The resulting blood test could be a convenient and accurate way of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage.