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Alzheimers Research UK explain 'what is dementia?'

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The research team, based at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at KCL, have high hopes for the groundbreaking blood test. Professor Sandrine Thuret explained previous studies have shown that “blood from young mice can have a rejuvenating effect on the cognition of older mice”. This is due to an improvement in hippocampal neurogenesis, which inspired the scientists to model the process of neurogenesis “in a dish using human brain cells and human blood”.

Professor Thuret shared the exciting discovery that “the [human] body’s circulatory system can have an effect on the brain’s ability to form new cells”.

Over a number of years, the researchers collected blood samples from 56 people who had mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – classified when a person’s memory or cognitive ability is declining.

While not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s disease, those with the condition are at higher risk of dementia than the wider population.

Out of 56 participants in the study, 36 of them went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

READ MORE: The sleep behaviour that could be a warning sign of dementia – it affects 90% of patients

Looking at the blood samples, the researchers noted that there was evidence of changes in neurogenesis around 3.5 years before a clinical diagnosis.

Participants affected by Alzheimer’s disease showed signs of decreases in cell growth and division, and a promotion of apoptotic cell death, soma em javascript in their blood work.

Dr Edina Silajdzic said: “Our findings are extremely important, potentially allowing us to predict onset of Alzheimer’s early in a non-invasive fashion.

“This could complement other blood-based biomarkers that reflect the classical signs of the disease…

“Such as the accumulation of amyloid and tau (the ‘flagship’ proteins of Alzheimer’s disease).”

The researchers hope the study could present an opportunity to further understand the changes the brain goes through at the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s.

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease

The NHS says the first step in a diagnosis is booking a doctor’s appointment.

A referral to a specialist can then take place, but there is “no simple and reliable test for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease”.

READ MORE: The sleep behaviour that could be a warning sign of dementia – it affects 90% of patients

This is why Dr Silajdzic and her team’s study is extremely exciting, as it paves the way for better diagnostics.

Right now, when referred to a specialist, people suspected of dementia will undergo mental ability tests.

“Most cognitive assessments involve a series of pen and paper tests and questions, each of which carries a score,” the NHS says.

These cognitive assessments involve testing:

  • Short- and long-term memory
  • Concentration and attention span
  • Language and communication skills
  • Awareness of time and place (orientation)
  • Abilities related to vision (visuospatial abilities).

“It’s important to remember that test scores may be influenced by a person’s level of education,” the NHS adds.

This is why scans of the brain may be required, so that signs of damage to the brain can be identified.

“It may take several appointments and tests over many months before a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be confirmed,” the NHS says.

Dr Silajdzic and her team’s findings were published in the journal Brain.

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