Alzheimer’s disease – Painless Skin Test for Early Detection

Alzheimer’s disease – Painless Skin Test for Early Detection

Scientists from the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute (BRNI) have found a substance in skin cells that could help diagnose whether or not a person is developing early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The skin test could be completed at a doctor’s office by a nurse or in an outpatient clinic. The researchers first published their report in the August 14th online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The BRNI biomarker found in the skin sample can accurately determine if a person has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia during the first one to two years of the early progression of the disease.

The accuracy was confirmed against human skin cell samples at both a tissue bank as well as from autopsy confirmed Alzheimer’s diagnoses. They also suggest that the biomarker test could possibly be developed for testing in blood samples.

“When it begins, Alzheimer's disease is often difficult to distinguish from other dementias or mild cognitive impairment,” said Daniel L. Alkon, M.D., scientific director of BRNI and coauthor of the study with Tapan K. Khan, Ph.D., assistant professor. “Potential treatments of Alzheimer’s, however, are likely to have their greatest efficacy before the devastating and widespread impairment of brain function that inevitably develops after four or more years.”

A growing number of scientists believe that Alzheimer’s affects the whole body and not just the brain. The skin test is measuring for an inflammation in skin cells called fibroblasts.

The change that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease is in the enzyme, MAP Kinase Erk 1 /2. The fibroblasts are tested by exposing the skin cells to Bradykinin, which is a common inflammatory signal. If the person has Alzheimer’s disease there is a response from the Erk 1 /2 that is distinguished from people that are not affected. If a person has dementia from other diseases such as Parkinson’s disease they would not test positive for Alzheimer’s.

Both Dr. Khan and Dr. Alkon created an Alzheimer’s Index rating system that can help calculate the patients.

“The results demonstrate that when the Alzheimer’s Index agrees with the clinical diagnosis of the presence of Alzheimer’s, there is a high probability of accurate diagnosis,” Alkon said.

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