Proactive Technology Against Alzheimer's Disease
Slip of the Tongue or Full-Blown Alzheimer's?
If you've ever had a slip of the tongue and substituted one word for another or a tip of the tongue experience where you can't quite remember that word, you may begin to wonder if you're at risk for Alzheimer's disease. It's normal to have a certain amount of forgetfulness with aging, but as we become more and more absentminded, it's hard not to wonder if we've started on the road to contracting Alzheimer's disease--a frightening thought for anyone. Somewhere between that normal state of a tip of the tongue abstraction and the more pronounced deficits of thought that come with dementia is something called mild cognitive impairment. According to the April 2008 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, new technology is improving our ability to discover who is liable to fall into each category.
This is wonderful news to the almost 10 million baby boomers at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. Researchers are taking a closer look at mild cognitive impairment and have found that some patients with this condition remain stable, some recover, while still others progress to full-blown Alzheimer's disease.
The newest technology improves doctors' ability to discover who will fall into which category. The timing for these promising findings couldn't be better since the first disease-modification drugs for Alzheimer's have begun late-stage testing in clinical trials.
One such technology is known as fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET). This test is able to measure the metabolism of blood glucose in the cerebral cortex. When glucose uptake is diminished, this suggests that neurons are less active. Another technological advance aids clinicians in measuring changes in brain volume by employing volumetric MRI, a method of detecting the shrinkage so typical of Alzheimer's.
Using one of these technologies, or a combination of the two, can give a reliable prediction of which patients with mild cognitive impairment are predisposed to the progression of Alzheimer's disease. This gives scientists the ability to determine who should receive disease-modifying drugs in current development. It may even become possible to determine which healthy people might be potential candidates for Alzheimer's, giving the medical profession a chance to prevent such a progression.
Both the technologies and the medications needed in the fight for the prediction and prevention of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease remain in the early stages of development, but the Harvard Mental Health Letter states with certainty that such research will provide the edge the medical profession needs to enable the aging population to receive better treatment.