Alzheimer’s Study: Groundbreaking Find Could Lead To New Therapies

Alzheimer’s study researchers have pinpointed a key difference in the cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer’s patients and those not afflicted with the disease.

The findings, presented in a release from the Huntington Medical Research Institutes, could lead to more effective treatments for patients and their families.

Yahoo! picked up the story earlier this week, noting that it “shows that the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with Alzheimer’s disease may contain diagnostic information before they have memory loss.”

More from the report:

The spinal fluid analysis also points to possible new avenues of therapy. The 3-year study found significant differences in fatty acids in cerebrospinal fluid — the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord — between Alzheimer’s and cognitively healthy patients. In particular, Omega-3 fatty acid levels were found to be considerably reduced in Alzheimer’s patients.

Dr. Alfred Fonteh, HMRI Senior Biochemist, and the lead researcher on the study, explains: “We measured a vast number of lipid compounds in the cerebrospinal fluid and found a lot of changes, especially in Omega-3 fatty acids and also in the mono-unsaturated fatty acids,” he said. “These (Omega-3’s) are the kind of fatty acids that you often find in a Mediterranean diet.”

Fonteh pointed to earlier studies showing that “people in countries with high-fish diets — foods particularly rich in Omega-3 fatty acids — were found to have better memory function and tend not to have as high an incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Earlier studies have also shown that the brain — high in fatty acids — shrinks considerably for those suffering with Alzheimer’s.

This being the first time an Alzheimer’s study of this kind focused on humans, Fonteh said, “For a long time people have done animal studies that found that if you provide a certain amount of Omega-3 fatty acids to rats, it prevents memory loss…. But no one has ever studied humans to discover levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the brain, or whether they’re actually depleted or have any significance in disease.”

Checking cerebrospinal fluid, researchers were able to get a direct read-out of brain changes, rather than looking at blood where molecular changes from the brain were mixed together with those from all other organs.

Yahoo! points out that the findings raise new questions and bring up interesting possibilities for treatment options. More from the report:

The changes in fatty acids within cerebrospinal fluid could be used as markers to characterize the stage of Alzheimer’s disease and perhaps to monitor response to therapies. Intriguingly, looking at restoration of fatty acids may be an approach to therapy, and the HMRI group will be addressing the results of this study with further research in the same patients, new study participants, in parallel with laboratory studies.

If you’d like to read everything for yourself, here’s a link to the study.

Do you think this Alzheimer’s study could be a bold step forward in fighting and, hopefully, curing the disease?

[Image via ShutterStock]