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New Alzheimer's Diagnostic Test May Change Treatment Approaches for the Disease

  [ 75 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • February 22, 2002

The results of a new study demonstrate an enzyme present in the body called glutamine synthetase (GS), is a highly specific and highly sensitive brain biomarker for Alzheimer's disease (AD). This discovery has lead to the development of a simple yet highly sensitive blood test that is brain GS-specific.

This test, intended for use in a Family Doctor or Specialist's office, uses a few drops of blood as a screening tool to aid in the early diagnosis of the disease, potentially leading to the initiation of drug treatment.

"The data generated to date, indicate that our GS assay may diagnose AD much earlier than currently available methods," commented study investigator, Dr. George Jackowski. Details of the study are reported in the February issue of Clinical Chemistry.

In the study, twenty-four patients were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and 14 with various other types of dementia. A differential diagnosis, as to the status of each study subject, was made by physicians who were blinded to the biochemical marker results. Technologists performing the biochemical assays were also blinded to the diagnosis of the patients.

The results of the study showed that GS is a sensitive and specific marker for Alzheimer's disease when the protein is analyzed in blood. The GS marker has been validated further in greater than 100 Alzheimer’s patients, and obtained similar results to those published in the Clinical Chemistry report.

There is no cure for AD and there is no definite means of diagnosing AD without a brain biopsy or an autopsy. There are, however, several medications that have been approved in the treatment of the disease. These drugs are thought to slow progression of the disease and improve the symptoms for a limited period of time. Treatments must begin early in the disease to slow or minimize the extent of the damage associated with AD. A highly sensitive and specific diagnostic method for early detection of the disease is of the utmost importance for overall patient management and outcome.

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