Looking Into 2021 with UCLA: An Alzheimer’s Breakthrough?
The latest Alzheimer’s disease breakthroughs and research were discussed recently during an exclusive presentation. The Kensington proudly partnered with The Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research for an interactive conversation with Dr. Sarah Kremen on these breakthroughs.
Dr. Kremen, associate professor of neurology at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, discussed how a new diagnostic procedure could provide earlier Alzheimer’s detection than current tests.
Read on to learn more about how this disease is currently diagnosed and the latest Alzheimer’s breakthroughs that were revealed during the event.
The Easton Center at UCLA
The Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research has a multifaceted mission to:
- Improve the quality of life for patients and caregivers
- Develop new medications and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions
- Support research to better understand Alzheimer’s and related conditions
The Kensington is proud to partner with and learn from this comprehensive research center to improve the treatment and quality of life of our own residents.
If you are interested in viewing the presentation, you can watch the full video here.
How is Alzheimer’s typically diagnosed?
Doctors use many tools and tests to discover why a person is experiencing memory loss. They use these methods to try and determine one of three outcomes:
- Possible Alzheimer’s dementia, where dementia may have another cause
- Probable Alzheimer’s dementia, where no other cause for dementia can be found
- Dementia due to some other medical condition, such as tumors, blood clots, a head injury, lack of vitamins, or another cause
Doctors will dive into a person’s current and past health, including medications, diet, ability to carry out daily activities, and personality or behavior changes. They will conduct memory and problem-solving tests, standard medical tests such as blood and urine, and perform brain scans.
These tests are attempts to rule out other causes for symptoms, and may be repeated over time to track changes.
Doctors also will sometimes use biomarkers to diagnose Alzheimer’s. Biomarkers are measures of what is happening inside the body. Brain changes in people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias might begin many years before memory loss symptoms appear, so biomarkers can help detect these changes and prompt early intervention.
Biomarkers can measure changes in the size and function of the brain, plus certain proteins detected in brain scans, cerebrospinal fluid, and blood. Current types of biomarkers and tests include:
- Brain imaging
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
- Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
- Blood tests
- Genetic tests
While CT and MRI scans mainly check out brain size, shape, and structure, PET scans and CSF tests can measure for abnormal protein deposits of beta-amyloid or tau. Higher levels of beta-amyloid can indicate Alzheimer’s disease, as well as abnormal accumulations of tau that form tangles in nerve cells in Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
Biomarkers are useful tools for early detection and intervention, but currently the more advanced options aren’t often able to be used regularly in clinical settings such as a doctor’s office.
What are the faults of current diagnostic procedures for Alzheimer’s?
Early detection of Alzheimer’s can be beneficial and provide more treatment options. But many current diagnostic procedures and tools with great promise are still not widely available, including the beta-amyloid PET scans and CSF markers for other proteins.
Also, many people may understandably be reluctant to immediately go to the doctor once they experience memory loss symptoms. The diagnosis can be devastating, and many people who understand there’s no current cure for the disease may feel discouraged.
But while there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, doctors can offer known drug or non-drug treatments to ease the burden of the disease, or you can possibly try to participate in clinical trials. Plus, if you don’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia and your memory loss is caused by another medical problem, you can begin receiving the proper treatment for your illness.
Fortunately, the latest breakthrough in Alzheimer’s detection can offer hope to families.
What is one of the latest breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s detection and diagnosis?
During the UCLA Alzheimer’s research presentation, Dr. Kremen revealed an exciting breakthrough: a new blood test that can detect the biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s and provide an earlier diagnosis than current tests.
This first-ever, up-and-coming commercial blood test is designed for people 60 and older who are experiencing memory loss and seeking Alzheimer’s testing. While the previous tests mentioned, such as the amyloid PET scans and CSF tests, can also accurately detect beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the brain, these tests are still in the early research stages, are expensive, and are not widely available to the public.
Using a blood test to detect these proteins would be simpler, less invasive, and less expensive than other methods. The test, developed by C2N Diagnostics, is a big step toward the widespread use of biomarkers clinically, leading to an earlier and more accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and dementia and better treatment.
How can Alzheimer’s be prevented?
While there are no proven strategies to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s, there is promising research. These studies have suggested that keeping your brain and body active, engaged, and relaxed daily can help. This includes regular physical activity, which Dr. Kremen said can help reduce anti-inflammatory factors and reduce the rate of neurodegeneration in the brain.
Addressing your mental health and stress levels also is important to keep your brain healthy. Quitting smoking and controlling high blood pressure will help keep your general health and particularly your cardiovascular health in shape, which in turn contributes to your neurological health.
There also is research to suggest a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans, and whole grains, can help keep your brain and heart healthy and your weight in check.
The Kensington and UCLA Alzheimer’s Research
Partnering with experts in Alzheimer’s and dementia research is important to The Kensington team, helping us to gain expert insights that in turn help us provide better care to our residents.
The presentation, featuring Dr. Sarah Kremen of UCLA and moderated by Community Health Program Manager Monica Moore, MSG, of the Easton Center, was one of the many events we host to learn about emerging detection, diagnosis, and treatment methods available for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The latest breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s detection, including the blood test, are exciting advancements we will continue to learn about and explore. We are passionate about providing the best care, support, and treatments for residents in our memory care program, and are continually working to improve and expand on our knowledge.
If you are seeking memory care for a loved one, please reach out to us to learn more about our community and what we offer to residents. We know dealing with memory loss can be a scary and challenging time, which is why we promise to love and care for your family, as we do our own. This Promise is a vow we take seriously, in order to be a loving support for you and your family while you move through this challenge.
Additional Recommended Reading:
- Coping with the Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Dementia
- Can Seniors Alter Their Genetic Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease?
- Is It Alzheimer’s — Or Normal Age-Related Memory Loss?