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News And Views

News & Views

  • 2 March 2015
  • Dr. Martin Godfrey

Alzheimer’s is only skin deep

The announcement last week that a new skin test for Alzheimer’s disease as well as Parkinson’s disease may soon be available, is welcome news particularly for those who worry about developing dementia.

Most of us forget things every day, like people’s names or where we put our keys, but this is not necessarily a sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia. In dementia, memory loss is more serious than forgetting things occasionally.Dementia often develops slowly and the early signs are often not obvious. And symptoms may come and go. One day the sufferer may function completely normally, the next they are confused and can’t cope.

The development of biomarkers for a huge range of diseases is now a rapidly exploding part of modern medicine. In this case two proteins, tau and alpha-synuclein, have been shown to be linked to the early development Alzheimer’s and their presence can be detected using a simple (but somewhat uncomfortable) biopsy of the skin behind the ear.

Already, many new cancer drugs are only being given marketing authorisation if biomarkers are available to measure their efficacy. Soon the success or failure of treatments for a host of diseases, from heart disease to haemorrhoids will become far more assessable and in consequence infinitely more cost effective.

Biotech diagnostics companies are springing up in their thousands, not only in the traditional research heartlands of the US west coast and Europe, but increasingly in Asia and Latin America. This growing industry success story means more regulatory challenges, more marketing and of course a growing need for smart communications companies to support them.

Now that’s something worth remembering!