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Research performed at the University of Navarra concludes that some patients with mild cognitive impairment suffer from Alzheimer

The research study performed by Lluís Samaranch provides corroboration for the feasibility of detecting this disease in its early stages

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FOTO: Manuel Castells
09/06/06 16:25 Mª Pilar Huarte

Research performed at the University of Navarra has concluded that some patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) will develop Alzheimer's disease in the future. The study, focused on the detection of early symptoms of the disease, was based on a multidisciplinary analysis using data extracted from a sample of 300 individuals at the University Hospital.

This doctoral research, performed by Lluís Samaranch, a scientist of the Center for Applied Medical Research (CIMA), supports the theory that a majority of patients with MCI are passing through an intermediate phase which will eventually result in an acute disease state. "Nevertheless," noted the new doctor of the School of Sciences, "not all cases of patients with mild impairment will later develop into Alzheimer's."

In order to come to this conclusion, the team from the Memory Disorders Unit of the University Hospital searched for early indicators of the disease: "In addition to the neuropsychological and neuroimagery markers implicated, our most important achievement is the discovery of the PET—positron emission tomography—as a highly effective technique for measuring the risk of progression of MCI," highlighted Dr. Pablo Martínez-Lage, director of the dissertation.

Early detection in order to combat the disease

Under the title "Alzheimer's disease in its prodomic phase. Transverse study and identification of markers of progression of dementia in a prospective series of patients with mild cognitive impairment," this multidisciplinary research project involved the collaboration of neuropsychologists, nurses and engineers.

Over more than 17 months, a sample of 299 individuals were studied. Among these, 103 were suffering from MCI; 80 reported subjective memory complaints; 62 suffered from Alzheimer's; and 54 belonged to the control group, which was made up of volunteers of the Navarra Blood Donors Association.

All participants were required to undergo neuropsychological tests, magnetic resonance imaging, various types of analyses, and an examination of genetic markers of risk, among other procedures. Thanks to this, the team concluded that the disease could be identified in early phases prior to causing irreversible damage, "although these require costly techniques, such as PET scans," noted Lluís Samaranch.

Therefore, they insisted on the necessary to find new biochemical markers that are cheaper and easier to identify, which nevertheless have the same predictive capacity: "In this way we would be able to make therapeutic interventions in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, when there still exist viable possibilities of success," affirmed Dr. Martínez-Lage.