A simple, non-invasive skin test could be used to identify the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, ...
A simple, non-invasive skin test could be used to identify the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, according to US researchers.
Examining changes in the skin cells of sufferers could make a screening programme possible that would detect the disease before other symptoms appear.
Scientists involved in the research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences medical journal, have produced a disease index to distinguish between skin cells taken from Alzheimer's patients, those from people with other forms of dementia, and those from healthy individuals. The index is based on comparing changes to proteins known as ERK1 and ERK2.
Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said these changes could potentially act as a biomarker to detect Alzheimer's disease.
"This is promising progress towards developing an accurate diagnostic test, and bolsters the evidence that Alzheimer's involves changes to biological systems found not just in the brain but also in other organ systems.
"It is particularly interesting that the so-called Alzheimer's biomarker was most pronounced in samples from people in the earliest stages of the disease. This high level of initial specificity would be particularly helpful in any early diagnostic test," she said.
However, Wood warned that more research would be needed before a test could be made available for doctors and patients. "The next step would be to determine whether it retains its predictive potential in more complex animal and human models," she said.
The news follows a similar breakthrough last month, when researchers at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Madrid announced that a blood test to diagnose the disease had an 87% accuracy rate during trials.
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