Washington: Researchers have validated the first standardized protocol for measuring one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer's disease.
A University of California led team has developed a gold standard method i.e. the atrophy of the part of the brain known as the hippocampus.
The finding marks the final step in an international consortium's successful effort to develop a unified and reliable approach to assessing signs of Alzheimer's-related neurodegeneration through structural imaging tests, a staple in the diagnosis and monitoring of the disease.
Dr. Liana Apostolova, director of the neuroimaging laboratory at the Mary S Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at UCLA, asserted that this hippocampal protocol will now become the gold standard in the field, adopted by many if not all research groups across the globe in their study of Alzheimer's disease and it will serve as a powerful tool in clinical trials for measuring the efficacy of new drugs in slowing or halting disease progression.
The hippocampus is a small region of the brain that is associated with memory formation, and memory loss is the earliest clinical feature of Alzheimer's disease. Its shrinkage or atrophy, as determined by a structural MRI exam, is a well-established biomarker for the disease and is commonly used in both clinical and research settings to diagnose the disease and monitor its progression.
Apostolova said that the technique was meant to be used on scans of living human subjects, so it was important that they were absolutely certain that this methodology measures what it was supposed to and captures disease presence accurately.
After applying the protocol to measure the hippocampal structures, the researchers analyzed the tissues for two changes that signify the disease i.e. a buildup of amyloid tau protein and loss of neurons. The team found a significant correlation between hippocampal volume and the Alzheimer's disease indicators.
The study is published in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia.