Alzheimer's disease is commonly associated with old-age and it is not usually diagnosed until symptoms appear. However, new research carried out by the New York University School of Medicine suggests that people who havetwo parents with Alzheimer'smay show signs of the disease decades before symptoms appear, which can be detected by brain scans.
The study looked at 52 individuals aged between 32 years and 72years who were free of dementia. They were divided into four groups comprising individuals who had either a mother with Alzheimer’s, a father with the condition, both parents with the condition or no family members with the condition. A series of brain scans were then carried out on all of the participants, including positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The results of the study showed that the participants that participants whose mother and father both had Alzheimer's disease showed 5-10% more brain plaques in specific brain regions and more severe brain abnormalities in brain volume and metabolism, compared with people who had one parent or no family members with Alzheimer's disease. It was also found that individuals who had mothers with Alzheimer's disease showed a higher level of biomarkers of the condition in their brain scans, compared with people who had fathers with Alzheimer's disease. The investigators note that this particular finding supports previous research showing that individuals who have mothers with Alzheimer's disease are more likely to develop the condition, compared with people who have fathers with the disease.
The results of the study suggest thatthere could be genes that predispose the development of Alzheimer's disease for each person, dependent on whether one or both parents have the condition.
One of the researchers, Lisa Mosconi, said,” We do not yet know which genes, if any, are responsible for these early changes, and we hope that our study will be helpful to future genetic investigations.”
In addition, the investigators stressed the importance of early detection for Alzheimer's disease.
Mosconi added: “Studies show that by the time people come in for a diagnosis, there may be a large amount of irreversible brain damage already present. This is why it is ideal that we find signs of the disease in high-risk people before symptoms occur."
The study was published online in the journal Neurology.