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Study: new Alzheimer’s marker can predict rate of memory loss

(Image courtesy National Institute on Aging)
This image from the National Institute on Aging shows the difference between the tissue structure of a healthy brain (at left) and a brain severely affected by Alzheimer's disease.

A new marker for Alzheimer's disease can be used to predict how quickly a patient will develop memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.

Researchers at Washington University measured levels of a marker called visinin-like protein 1 in in the spinal fluid of 60 patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's then tracked their symptoms for three years.

Neurologist Dr. Rawan Tarawneh, now at the University of Jordan, led the study.

“We found that individuals who had the highest levels of visinin-like protein 1 had the most rapid rate of decline in memory and mental skills,” Tarawneh said.

Tarawneh says the protein is released into spinal fluid when brain cells are damaged. She says it could be used to test new Alzheimer’s drugs or to identify Alzheimer’s patients before they have any symptoms.

“This is very important because we’d like to detect the signs of dementia at the earliest possible stage, because that is when the new treatments have the greatest chance of working,” Tarawneh said.

She says these preliminary results will need to be validated in a larger, longer-term study.

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