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Early Warning? Spinal fluid may signal Alzheimer's presence

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9:41am, September 17, 2003

Although it's the most common type of dementia, Alzheimer's disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose. When confronted with a confused and forgetful patient, a doctor must first rule out other brain disorders by putting the patient through a battery of psychological tests, brain scans, and various health assessments. The diagnosis can take months.

In search of a more precise diagnostic tool, researchers have been looking for signs of the disease in people's spinal fluid.

In the September Archives of Neurology, a Swiss team reports that spinal-fluid concentrations of forms of two compounds already linked to the disease–tau protein and beta-amyloid peptide–may reveal whether a person has Alzheimer's disease.

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