ALZHEIMER’S disease could potentially be identified early by determining the condition’s polygenic risk score in adults in their 50s, according to research from University of California San Diego, San Diego, California, USA. Establishing individuals who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), commonly a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, could lead to interventions at an early stage that are more likely to be effective.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
As the pathological process of Alzheimer’s disease usually begins decades before the onset of dementia, the researchers wanted to establish which patients were most at risk of MCI in their 50s. MCI, for which symptoms include difficulty with word recall or regularly losing personal possessions, was found to be 2.5–3.0-times more likely in people whose Alzheimer’s disease polygenic risk score is in the upper quartile than those with a score in the lowest quartile. It has been estimated that 8 out 10 people with amnestic MCI go on to develop Alzheimer’s within 7 years. The data analysed were from 1,329 males, 90% of whom were in their 50s.
Reduction in Cases
The researchers believe the findings could provide the basis to reduce the number of people with Alzheimer’s in the future. “Our research team found that the polygenic score could differentiate individuals with mild cognitive impairment from those who were cognitively normal,” commented Prof William S. Kremen, University of California San Diego. “We also noticed that for study participants who had cognitive defects other than memory problems, diabetes was three-fold more likely.”
He added: “The Alzheimer’s Association and others have modelled how the impact of delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by 5 years could reduce the number of cases by nearly 50% by 2050. We want to do what we can to make this projection a reality.”
Although this test is not currently available to primary care physicians, it is hoped that it will be utilised by researchers to predict Alzheimer’s disease and MCI, identifying those individuals who would benefit from early interventions and participating in relevant clinical trials.
James Coker, Reporter
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