May 13, 2014

Bioethics: Testing for Alzheimer's Disease

A group of researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center, led by  Howard Federoff, M.D., has developed a test for a biomarker that identifies patients who have very early Alzheimer's disease.  As with most diseases, early diagnosis makes for earlier treatment.  This may be of benefit because the medications for treating the disease are now often given too late to be very effective.

Healthy Lifestyle

There is established evidence that lifestyle decisions--a heart healthy diet, physical activity, and social and cognitive stimulation--help preserve cognitive function.  If a person were to learn that they are at high risk for developing Alzheimer's, they may be more motivated to make healthy changes.  However, since the blood test is only 90% accurate, there is the possibility of false positives.  A positive test must be confirmed by other tests.  For a patient finding out they are at high risk for the disease, however, it could negatively affect their outlook on life.  This bioethical concern is exacerbated by the fact that there is still no effective treatment for the disease.

Robert G. Tupac, DDS, FACP, Inc., Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics (661) 325-1275 | 5060 California Ave., #170, Bakersfield, CA 93309

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