In the history of medicine, one means to progress is when we make the decision that our assumptions and definitions of disease are no longer consistent with the scientific evidence, and no longer serve our health care needs. The arc of scientific progress is now requiring a change in how we diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. Both the National Institute on Aging—Alzheimer’s Association (NIA-AA) 2011 workgroup and the International Work Group (IWG) have proposed guidelines that use detectable measures of biological changes in the brain, commonly known as biological markers, or biomarkers, as part of the diagnosis. This Special Report examines how the development and validation of Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers—including those detectable in the blood or cerebral spinal fluid, or through neuroimaging—is a top research priority, and how this has the potential to markedly change how we diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and, as a result, how we count the number of people with this disease. As research advances a biomarker-based method for diagnosis and treatment at the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, we envision a future in which Alzheimer’s disease is placed in the same category as other chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, which can be readily identified with biomarkers and treated before irrevocable disability occurs.
SOURCE: Karlawish, Jason; Jack Jr., Clifford R.; Rocca, Walter A. et al. “Alzheimer’s Disease: The next frontier—Special Report 2017.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia [Online first viewed 16 March 2017] http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2017.02.006
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