Spinal Tap May Predict Alzheimer's Years Ahead

by Elizabeth Landau ,  CNN Health | 2012-01-02

Scientists are finding more clues to help determine whether people with mild dementia symptoms are at risk for Alzheimer's.

A new study suggests that biomarkers found in cerebrospinal fluid (fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain and acts as a protective cushion) could predict who would develop Alzheimer's disease 90% of the time among patients with mild cognitive impairment, a condition characterized by measurable memory problems.

Researchers report these findings in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

This is the longest clinical follow-up ever of patients who begin with mild cognitive impairment, researchers reported. Patients were tracked from four to 12 years, with a median of 9.2 years.  The research builds on a 2006 Lancet Neurology study that followed patients for a median of 5.2 years, beginning with a group of 137 volunteers with mild cognitive impairment.The new study is important because of the long follow-up period, according to Adam Brickman, assistant professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research.

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