Scientists say they may have discovered a way to predict cognitive deterioration in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors at John Hopkins University School of Medicine believe analyzing the levels of certain fats in the blood could provide the key in determining the progression of dementia. They say the findings may provide vital information to families and caregivers as they prepare for the inevitable.
Researchers looked at 120 probable Alzheimer’s candidates over the course of two years at the Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. The results indicated that the levels of certain fatty compounds (plasma sphingomyelins and ceramide) determined the speed of cognitive decline.
“We’re confident there’s a relationship between these lipids and Alzheimer’s disease progression, but this work is not yet ready to be used clinically,” according to Michelle Mielke, Ph.D., an adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at John Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Previous studies suggest that cognitive function deteriorates at different rates in Alzheimer’s patients, with approximately one-third demonstrating no decline in five years, one third declining at a moderate rate and the final third declining rapidly.
Currently, there are no reliable treatments that prevent, slow down or stop Alzheimer’s disease. The only approved therapy treats symptoms of mental decline in some patients, but only for a brief period of time. The disease still, inevitably, takes hold and runs its course.