Brain atrophy links with tau biomarker in Alzheimer's progression

The memory loss linked with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can seem nothing much more than a frustration--the odd senior moment, forgotten names here and there, the occasional missed appointment--and it might be the result of nothing more than a bout of stress. However, it can have a more sinister side when it signals the approach of Alzheimer's disease. The progression from MCI to Alzheimer's disease is faster in some people than in others, from as short as a few months to as long as 10 years. Researchers in the Netherlands have pinpointed a couple of biomarkers that could help to find the people most at risk.

In a paper published in The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, the researchers looked at 91 people with mild cognitive impairment and assessed a number of factors to see if they could be linked with different speeds of progression. The patients that went downhill more quickly were more likely to have brain shrinkage (atrophy) and higher levels of tau protein in their cerebrospinal fluid.

As well as better diagnostics, physicians working with people with mild cognitive impairment need better predictive biomarkers that can indicate how quickly (or slowly) people might progress to full-blown Alzheimer's disease, to help them choose treatment and find the most appropriate support for patients and their families. However, it's still at an early stage and researchers are aware that further work is needed.

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