Skin test may aid in Alzheimer’s detection

a doctor doing test on microscope

Detecting Alzheimer’s disease early on is crucial, as behavioral intervention may help thwart the progression of this degenerative disease. As such, dementia research has reached a high point, with scientists discovering new avenues for determining one’s risk of the condition as well as methods for treatment. A new study has found one new approach to early detection: skin testing.

Exploring new methods for Alzheimer’s detection

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of San Luis Potosi in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. They collected skin biopsies from 20 participants diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as 16 with Parkinson’s, another 17 with other forms of dementia and 12 without any cognitive conditions.

“People with Alzheimer’s have higher levels of certain altered proteins.”

The scientists then analyzed the biopsies to determine whether certain types of altered proteins (tau proteins) found in people with Alzheimer’s were present in the skin samples. The results revealed that people with Alzheimer’s as well as those with Parkinson’s had levels of such altered proteins seven times higher than patients with no cognitive condition.

“Until now, pathological confirmation was not possible without a brain biopsy, so these diseases often go unrecognized until after the disease has progressed,” study author Dr. Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva stated in an American Academy of Neurology press release. “We hypothesized that since skin has the same origin as brain tissue while in the embryo that they might also show the same abnormal proteins.”

As the study confirmed the researchers’ theory, the skin test serves as a possible future biomarker that would let doctors identify and diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier on and develop a treatment plan to slow or halt the progression of the disease before more irreversible cognitive decline occurs.

Researchers have found that a skin test seeking the tau protein may serve as a tool for early detection of Alzheimer's.

What does this mean for the future of Alzheimer’s detection?

While more exhaustive studies and testing are required, the findings may mean a revolutionary new way to detect dementia early on is in the near future. According to Rodriguez-Leyva, the study’s findings may lead to a less invasive and faster detection procedure, and it may open the door to detection of other cognitive conditions.

“More research is needed to confirm these results, but the findings are exciting because we could potentially begin to use skin biopsies from living patients to study and learn more about these diseases,” Rodriguez-Leyva said in the press release. “This also means tissue will be much more readily available for scientists to study. This procedure could be used to study not only Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but also other neurodegenerative diseases.”

The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology 67th annual meeting, held in late April. The researchers will seek support for further investigation of the use of skin testing to detect Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other forms of dementia.

Speak to one of our healthcare professionals to learn more about Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

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