A Skin Test to Detect Alzheimer’s

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerMarch 5, 2015

Doctors and researchers agree that the early detection of Alzheimer‘s disease is crucial to treatment options and vitally important to slowing the progression of the disease. Now, a new study from Central Hospital at the University of San Luis Potosi in Mexico, has found that the detection of certain proteins in the skin can help detect Alzheimer‘s before symptoms occur.

Learn more about this study and what it means for people at risk for the disease.

Early Clues to Alzheimer’s May Lie in Proteins Found in Skin

Researchers from Central Hospital at the University of San Luis Potosi in Mexico have found that a simple skin test may hold early clues to the development of Alzheimer’s. The research team, led by Dr. Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva, reasoned that because skin has the same origin as brain tissue, the skin may serve as a window to the health of the brain on a molecular level. They also knew that previous post-mortem studies of people with Parkinson’s showed that skin had the similar protein deposits which occurred in the brain.

To test their theory on the living, researchers took a skin biopsy from behind the ear of 65 volunteers. Of the volunteers, 12 were healthy and 53 had Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or another form of dementia. They found that the participants who had Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s had higher levels of tau and alpha-synuclein proteins in their skin. Both proteins are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, respectively.

Lead researcher Dr. Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva was ecstatic about the results saying:

“This skin test opens the possibility to see abnormal proteins in the skin before central nervous system symptoms — cognitive or motor deficits — appear.”

Next Steps for Use of a Skin Test to Detect Alzheimer’s

Because the study was completed on a small scale, more research is needed to confirm the findings. Nevertheless, researchers are hopeful that their findings will help drug developers create treatments that more effectively target tau and alpha synuclein proteins.

Dr. Arthur Roach, Parkinson’s UK Director of Research and Development is cautiously optimistic of the findings, stating:

” This work points to a possible diagnostic test that would be minimally invasive and could provide earlier, more accurate diagnosis. There is still a need for more innovation in this area — at the moment there’s no way to definitively diagnose Parkinson’s.”

Dr. Simon Ridley of Alzheimer’s Research UK agrees that it is too early to determine the availability of a skin test to diagnose Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Researchers will present their study in Washington, D.C. this April at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting.

Are you looking forward to more research on skin tests being used to diagnose Alzheimer’s? Or, do you think it is still too early to positively diagnose someone with dementia using a skin test? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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