Dr. Clifford R. Jack Jr., a professor of radiology at Mayo Medical School, says physicians already have developed effective methods of testing for Alzheimer's disease, often turning up signs of its pathology a decade or two before the patient develops any clinical signs of dementia. Through advanced brain imaging and spinal taps that test for the presence of beta-amyloid in the cerebrospinal fluid, it's possible to find and identify definitive evidence of the disease, Jack says.
"People have thought of Alzheimer's disease as a condition defined by observable, clinical symptoms," Jack said. "The reality is that brain pathology that ultimately causes the symptoms precedes those symptoms by many years."
Unlike hypertension, in which clinicians can measure blood pressure with a simple pressure cuff, testing for signs of Alzheimer's disease remains costly and invasive, Jack says. The Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved a treatment that slows, stops or reverses the effects of Alzheimer's in more than a decade -- and no drug on the market is effective at relieving the symptoms, Jack says.
However, Jack says he is optimistic a focus on pre-symptomatic patients who show signs that they will develop the disease will lead to better treatment.
Jack is to deliver a lecture Sept. 16 at a public forum to be presented by the Friends of the Alzheimer's Disease Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
"Dr. Clifford R. Jack Jr. is a distinguished Alzheimer's expert who will discuss magnetic resonance imaging techniques for diagnosing and measuring the progression of Alzheimer's," Dr. Roger Rosenberg, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said in a statement.
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