Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


UCLA researchers image earliest signs of Alzheimer's, before symptoms appear

Findings could allow for early interventions for the disease

Estimates are that some 10 percent of people over the age of 65 will develop Alzheimer's disease, the scourge that robs people of their memories and, ultimately, their lives.

While researchers race to find both the cause and the cure, others are moving just as fast to find the earliest signs that will predict an eventual onset of the disease, well before any outward symptoms. The reason is simple: The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier treatments can be applied.

Now, through the use of sophisticated brain-imaging techniques, researchers at UCLA have been able to predict a brain's progression to Alzheimer's by measuring subtle changes in brain structure over time, changes that occur long before symptoms can be seen. The research appears in two separate papers currently available online and scheduled for future print publication.

In the first study, which appears in the online edition of the journal Human Brain Mapping, UCLA assistant clinical professor of neurology Liana Apostolova and colleagues tracked 169 people over three years who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that causes memory problems greater than those expected for an individual's age — but not the personality or cognitive changes that define Alzheimer's. They found that after three years, those who went on to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease showed a 10 to 30 percent greater atrophy in two specific locations within the brain's hippocampus, a part of the brain known to be critical for long-term memory.

In the second study, which appears in the online edition of the journal Neurobiology of Aging, the researchers looked at 10 cognitively normal elderly people and compared their brain scans with those of seven other elderly people who were later diagnosed with MCI and then Alzheimer's. Again, they found that the group that went on to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's showed the same pattern of atrophy in the same regions of the hippocampus.

This shows, Apostolova said, that excess atrophy is present in cognitively normal individuals who are predestined to develop MCI. Further, that atrophy ultimately cascades across the entire hippocampus of the brain, leading to Alzheimer's disease.

"We feel this is an important finding because it is in living humans," said Apostolova, senior author of both papers and a member of the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging. "Now we have a sensitive technique that shows the 'invisible' — that is, the progression of a disease before symptoms appear."

In the first study, the researchers wanted to track disease progression in the hippocampus. In earlier work, Apostolova's lab had shown that greater atrophy can be documented in the living brain and that it can predict conversion from MCI to Alzheimer's. The researchers looked at two areas within the hippocampus: the CA1 (cornu ammonis) and the subiculum. In this study, they tracked atrophy from the CA1 as it spread to the subiculum, which matched disease progression from the MCI state to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

They split the MCI subjects into those who had no noticeable hippocampal atrophy other then what is expected from normal aging alone, and those who had atrophy greater than expected for normal aging. Three years later, the researchers followed up and compared the MCI group with no visual change to the one with premature change. They found 10 to 30 percent greater atrophy in the CA1 and subiculum of those MCI patients with premature atrophy who were later diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

"In looking at the longitudinal changes, we could see there was definitive evidence of a progression from the CA1 to the subiculum region, and on to the other regions of the hippocampus," Apostolova said.

The second, much smaller study of 17 individuals confirmed the findings of the larger study, but this time in people who were cognitively healthy. Here, the researchers looked at 10 cognitively normal elderly subjects who remained normal at three-year and six-year follow-ups, and at seven cognitively normal elderly subjects who were diagnosed with MCI between two and three years after their initial brain scan and with Alzheimer's approximately seven years after the initial scan.

Again, excessive atrophy in the CA1 and subicular regions was present in cognitively normal individuals who went on to be diagnosed with MCI, and a slow progression of atrophy beyond the CA1 and subiculum to other regions was evident in those ultimately diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

Apostolova noted that the degree of atrophy is not easily visible in the brain scans and that very sensitive techniques are required to show its progression.

"We can't see the pathologic changes, but we clearly see the neurodegenerative atrophy associated with MCI and AD, and how it spreads through the hippocampus," she said. "This is exactly what a biomarker, being an indirect measure of disease progression, is supposed to do."

For the mild cognitive impairment study, other authors included Paul M. Thompson, Amity E. Green, Kristy S. Hwang, Charleen Zoumalan, Arthur W. Toga and Jeffrey L. Cummings, all of UCLA; Clifford R. Jack Jr. and Ronald C. Petersen, of the Mayo Clinic; Danielle Harvey and Charles DeCarli, of UC Davis; and Leon J. Thal and Paul S. Aisen, of UC San Diego.

The study was funded by AFAR, the John A. Hartford Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Starr Foundation, an anonymous donor, the Turken Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

For the cognitively normal study, other authors included Lisa Mosconi, Paul M. Thompson, Amity E. Green, Kristy S. Hwang and Anthony Ramirez, all of UCLA; Rachel Mistur, of New York University School of Medicine; and Wai H. Tsui and Mony J. de Leon, of New York University School of Medicine and the Nathan Kline Institute.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institutes of Health, the John A. Hartford Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Starr Foundation, the Alzheimer's Association and an anonymous donor.

The authors report no conflict of interest.

The UCLA Department of Neurology encompasses more than a dozen research, clinical and teaching programs that cover brain mapping and neuroimaging, movement disorders, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, neurogenetics, nerve and muscle disorders, epilepsy, neuro-oncology, neurotology, neuropsychology, headaches and migraines, neurorehabilitation, and neurovascular disorders. The department ranks first among its peers nationwide in National Institutes of Health funding.

Mark Wheeler | EurekAlert!
Further information:

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>