BRNI discovery raises hopes for Alzheimer's test

Researchers at the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute say they've identified a biomarker for Alzheimer's that may allow for an early diagnosis of the debilitating disease with a brief, painless skin test. Alzheimer's is a notoriously difficult disease to diagnose. Standard methods today involve a battery of imperfect psychiatric evaluations or post-mortems that are of no help to the living. When the disease begins it is also hard to distinguish from other impairments with similar symptoms, delaying therapy that could provide significant benefits in slowing the progression of the disease. But a new scientific study says that Alzheimer's spurs changes in the enzymes MAP Kinase Erk 1 and 2. Their work was based on skin tissue samples taken from the bodies of patients who had suffered a range of ailments including Alzheimer's. And it points the way to crucial early therapy.

"Potential treatments of Alzheimer's," says Daniel L. Alkon, M.D., scientific director of BRNI and coauthor of the study with Tapan K. Khan, Ph.D., assistant professor, "are likely to have their greatest efficacy before the devastating and widespread impairment of brain function that inevitably develops after four or more years."

- read the release on the research project