Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer's Risk Determined by Spinal Tap
Whether people with mild cognitive impairment are at risk for Alzheimer’s disease could be determined by conducting a spinal tap, scientists now believe. According to CNN, a new study from the Columbia University School of Medicine shows that biomarkers found in cerebrospinal fluid help to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s with an accuracy of 90 percent.
Study participants with mild cognitive impairment were tracked an average of 9 years and given spinal taps to measure the amount and type of cerebrospinal fluid found around their spinal cord and brain. In particular, researchers measured two types of protein found in the fluid called beta-amyloid and tau. Both have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
The study results suggest that the levels of beta-amyloid around the spinal cord are the best and earliest predictor of Alzheimer’s disease. The protein decreases in the spinal cord and is instead directed to the brain, where toxic buildup leads to the formation of plaque and, eventually, Alzheimer’s. Scientists now believe that this process occurs first in the onset of Alzheimer’s.
But that doesn’t mean concerned adults should be scheduling spinal taps to assess their risk of Alzheimer’s, said study leader Adam Brickman. It’s still too early to use the procedure as a diagnostic tool.