For years, diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease was like getting enough puzzle pieces together to guess the picture, but now there is a simple test called Alzheimalert. Proponents say the test is ground-breaking for two reasons. First, because it's fast. Test results come in in a few days. Also, since it is a urine test, it's non-invasive. A lab test measures the amount of a specific protein that has been strongly linked to Alzheimer's.
"The urine test is revolutionary. In the past, we've used brain biopsies, and certainly lumbar punctures that provide us with cerebral spinal fluid for analysis. This is the first time that a peripheral, non-invasive accurate test is now available to the clinician," says Dr. Michael Munzar, Medical Director, Nymox Corp.
"Healthy people do have this protein, but in much smaller amounts, and for some reason they're able to get rid of the protein in a normal way. In Alzheimer's Disease, it accumulates, and that accumulation is probably what causes the cell death," says Dr. Suzanne de la Monte, lead researcher, Brown University.
The urine test is marketed by the Nymox Corporation. It tests for high levels of the brain protein called NTP, which climbs as the disease progresses. Alzheimalert is new this month, so it is just now becoming available in doctors' offices.
So, why would you want to know you have Alzheimer's when there is no cure? Because Dr. Munzar says that earlier diagnosis means earlier treatment, and there are treatments today that can delay or at least reduce the patient's symptoms.