A damaging protein found in the brain is cleared slower by people who have Alzheimer’s disease than by those who do not.
People with the condition are known to experience build-up of the beta-amyloid protein in the brain, although a US study now claims that the problem is not the build-up itself, rather the slow clearance of it.
The findings of the research, which involved just 24 people, were published in the journal Science.
Brain fluid of the subjects was collected with a spinal needle by neurologists at the University of Medicine in St Louis. They then measured the amount of beta-amyloid in the fluid taken from 12 people with late-onset Alzheimer’s and 12 people who did not have the disease.
The levels were then sampled every hour for 36 hours. It was found that the clearance of beta-amyloid in people with Alzheimer’s was 30% slower than those without the disease.
They suggested beta-amyloid clearance rates could eventually be measured, perhaps via a blood test, in order to detect Alzheimer’s before the symptoms appear.
Researchers added that the results meant scientists could now look at how beta-amyloid is moved out of the brain. This in turn could help scientists develop drugs to target that process.
Some estimates say that around one million people in the UK will have Alzheimer’s disease before 2025.