Alzheimer’s study on biomarkers generates debate

Ann MacDonald

Contributor, Harvard Health

A study about a three-protein signature that might help identify people with Alzheimer’s,  published in the August issue of the Archives of Neurology, has generated quite a bit of discussion in the blogosphere.  I thought readers might want to follow the discussion, so I’ve shared some links to representative posts. (We will be covering the topic of Alzheimer’s biomarkers in our November 2010 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.)

It all started when investigators from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a collaborative effort of 57 centers in the United States and Canada, reported that they had identified a spinal fluid biomarker that can not only identify people with Alzheimer’s disease, but also those with mild cognitive impairment (often but not always a precursor to dementia) who are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s in the future.

An overly enthusiastic report in the New York Times generated a series of criticisms that still-preliminary research was being over-sold as a way to diagnose Alzheimer’s in healthy people. Among those weighing in were Gary Schwitzer and other reviewers at, a project of the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, who criticized news coverage in the NYT and elsewhere.

More recently, Dr. George Lundberg, editor-at-large at MedPage Today, weighed in. As he put it, “PUHLEASE do not unleash such diagnostic tests for clinical use on the public until we have a way to intervene to positively change prognosis or course of the disease.”

In an editorial that accompanied the original study, Dr. A. Zara Herskovits, a clinical fellow in pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Dr. John Growdon, director of the Memory and Movement Disorders Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, praised the research but also offer detailed cautions about its clinical applicability at this time.  That’s likely the angle we’ll take in our story.


  1. Jon Traudt

    Some research results provide strong evidence that radon progeny become concentrated in brain tissues associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

    Reducing exposure to radon may help to prevent and/or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

  2. Mary Aguilar

    Wonderful information! I hope that us to be direct contributors to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s. I’m still an undergraduate, but I feel very committed to this and I’m doing a study on Alzheimer’s. This article has helped in my quest for information. thank you very much. God help us.

  3. thestats

    is the recent VILIP-1 csf biomarker really prognostic or early detection tool , its a very nicely done article,Thanks.
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  4. DJ

    I hope dementia research continues to bring answers and measures of prevention. It is such a debilitating condition for the sufferers, of course, but family and friends too.
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  5. Alice Steyn

    I for one believe that a person has a right to be tested if they suspect they may have it or if it runs in the family. No cure for cancer a host of other diseases but that doesn’t prevent diagnosis!

  6. Debbi

    Very interesting research. I hope it continues despite the nay sayers. They have never had to deal with a family member with end stage dementia, or they wouldn’t hold this opinion.

  7. Pam

    Thank you for this article. I think it is very necessary for research to continue in Dementia, because it is rapidly becoming a force that we must deal with. The comment of not releasing this test on the public until there is a way to treat it comment is ludicrous. I believe people have a right and a need to know if they have Alzheimer’s dementia. I certainly would want to know when I still had the ability to plan for my care when the disease completely takes my mind.

  8. Shakeology

    great information on Alzheimer’s. SO many people do not realize how serious this is and how bad people can get. Thanks again.

  9. Natural Health Philippines

    Thanks for the article on Alzheimer’s, very nice links by the way.

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