Researchers of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s are increasingly looking to healthy people to help detect preclinical changes and risk in diseases that can manifest for over a decade before clinical symptoms persist.
Two categories of biomarkers—amyloid β deposition and measures of neurodegeneration—are now being used to track pathophysiology and may soon become the objective tests needed to establish an early diagnosis.
While recent studies show that an accumulation of amyloid and neurodegeneration in older adults is practically inevitable, more research is needed to examine how some people’s brains are able to compensate for the plaque buildup and avoid dementia.
The use of biomarkers has its advantages and disadvantages, as oncologists are well aware, and so creating guidelines for the use of biomarkers in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is a key purpose of an upcoming meeting in Geneva in December.
There, neurologists and oncologists will discuss the use of biomarkers, specifically their implementation in cancer diagnosis, and evaluate the use of certain biomarkers in clinical practice. Finding a risk-benefit balance is key since many screening tests can lead to over-diagnosis or unnecessary treatments.
For now, monoclonal antibodies and molecular inhibitors are being tested in clinical trials, but it may not be long until prognostic biomarkers and treatments are available for AD.
Neurological researchers are becoming ever more interested in healthy people. The notion that the clinical symptoms of some neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease ( AD), manifest at least a decade after a pathological process has begun is now firmly established, mostly by evidence from the study of familial cases.