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Technology To Detect Alzheimer's Takes SXSW Prize

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the catching-it-early dept.

Medicine 81

An anonymous reader writes "Being able to diagnose people with Alzheimer's disease years before debilitating symptoms appear is now a step closer to reality. Researchers behind Neurotrack, the technology startup that took the first place health prize at this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) startup accelerator in Austin. The company says their new technology can diagnose Alzheimer's disease up to six years before symptoms appear with 100% accuracy."

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What's the point? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169667)

A good screening test is one that identifies a treatable disease.

Re:What's the point? (5, Insightful)

scottrocket (1065416) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169707)

A good screening test is one that identifies a treatable disease.

Or six years extra for people to try experimental treatments before symptoms kick in. Or six extra years to decide when or how to gracefully leave this world, with dignity.

Re:What's the point? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169859)

Or six years to drink yourself to death.

Who wants to know that they will suffer an uncurable disease well before it strikes? Who wants the extra six years of misery and fretting that an incurable disease will definitely afflict will them? Who wants to suffer the damage this information brings?

People are stupid!

Re:What's the point? (3, Insightful)

StuartHankins (1020819) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170983)

I would welcome the advance notice. I'd like to have a chance to get my affairs in order and do a few things before I'm unable.

I've no time for being depressed, that would come much later. Or perhaps not, if I lived everything to the best of my ability. I could perhaps be happy and at peace.

Re:What's the point? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172197)

I would welcome the advance notice. I'd like to have a chance to get my affairs in order and do a few things before I'm unable. I've no time for being depressed, that would come much later. Or perhaps not, if I lived everything to the best of my ability. I could perhaps be happy and at peace.

You sound very rational and emotionless now, I bet it wouldn't be the same if you actually did have advance notice. Me, I'd rather not know. It's too much like those stories when someone is told the exact time and place of their death and they basically spend the rest of their lives making sure they aren't anywhere near that place at that time, but it turns out there's a postcard with a picture of that place hidden in an old clock that falls on their head at the stroke of midnight (or something).

Re:What's the point? (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | about a year and a half ago | (#43173607)

Perhaps you're right. I've done so much but also lost so much... I've lived a full life. I do not believe in an afterlife. It will be bittersweet to see this one go.

Since I've reached the end of the "first half", I wouldn't mind finding the right person to share the second half. I hope I don't have to be alone that whole time... and by "alone" I mean without a kindred soul. Finding someone to physically be with me is simple but other than the longest, my relationships have only lasted a few years each. Nothing makes you more lonely than being in bed beside someone who doesn't understand you, who has few common interests and thinks the things which interest you are "too complicated". It's a recurring theme in my life.

Re:What's the point? (4, Interesting)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year and a half ago | (#43174123)

I would welcome the advance notice. I'd like to have a chance to get my affairs in order and do a few things before I'm unable.

Do those things now; you never know when your time is up.

My wife was perfectly healthy until the day before Thanksgiving 2005 when, with only the complaint of a persistent headache, she was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor known as a Glioblastoma Multiforme [wikipedia.org] (GBM). She died in my arms just seven weeks later; we had been together for 20 years.

While she was 61, I was 42 at that time. We both had Wills and our finances pretty well in order anyway, but now I have a more detailed Will, beneficiaries and/or transfer on death notices on my investments, copies of important paperwork in a firesafe at home, and a Living Will registered at U.S. Living Will Registry [uslivingwillregistry.com] that includes a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) - many hospitals can provide and submit the paperwork and having them do so will also cover the $5/year fee. I have also signed up with the Virginia State Anatomical Program [virginia.gov] to donate my body to science, like my wife asked me to do for her.

We were lucky and I'm grateful for all our years and those last seven weeks together, including our last Thanksgiving, wedding anniversary, Christmas and New Year. (though, the Winter season suck for me now.) Many people aren't so lucky and the end comes very suddenly.

Remember Sue... [tumblr.com]

Re:What's the point? (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | about a year and a half ago | (#43174861)

I'm sorry for your loss. And much appreciate your taking the time and effort to provide those helpful links.

The Thanksgiving through end of February period is rough for me also. Birthdays of estranged family, family holidays I now spend alone, etc. I hope you have a good relationship with others who can help you through it.

Re:What's the point? (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year and a half ago | (#43175579)

Oh. And have good health insurance. A one-month supply of her chemotherapy medication Temodar [wikipedia.org] would have been $11,000 w/o insurance, at that time. With her HMO, the co-pay was $40. (With my BCBS, it would have been 10%.) If I remember correctly, the standard treatment is 4 months.

Re:What's the point? (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | about a year and a half ago | (#43175919)

It should be criminal to charge that much for medicine. I pity the people who sell everything because they can't afford healthcare.

Re:What's the point? (1)

jsrjsr (658966) | about a year and a half ago | (#43176521)

So you would rather the medicine not exist because it cost too much?

It has to be paid for somehow.

Re:What's the point? (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43171543)

Who wants to know that they will suffer an uncurable disease well before it strikes?

It is only incurable for now. Progress is being made. People tend to direct their charitable contributions to causes that affect them directly. So if more people know they will get Alzheimer's Disease, or someone they care about will get it, more money will be contributed towards finding a cure, rather than contributed toward, say, political campaigns or religious organizations. This is a good thing.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43172613)

Or six years to drink yourself to death.

Who wants to know that they will suffer an uncurable disease well before it strikes? Who wants the extra six years of misery and fretting that an incurable disease will definitely afflict will them? Who wants to suffer the damage this information brings?

People are stupid!

Well, I would say that identifying it is half the battle here in finding a cure, but that's just me being a fucking optimist. Screw that.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Hunter Shoptaw (2655515) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172765)

Somebody didn't watch Breaking Bad. :)

Re:What's the point? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about a year and a half ago | (#43174375)

I'm going to agree that people are stupid, if by people, you actually mean yourself.

Do you know what else is incurable? AIDS, and Diabetes

Do you know what happens if you never know you have them? You die a slow painful death.

Do you know what you can do if you discover you have them before the outwardly visible symptoms appear? You can manage them with drugs, and modified behaviors. If you manage them carefully, you have the chance to live a rather long life and one without painful, disfiguring, and incapacitating symptoms.

So who wants to know if they will suffer from an incurable disease well before it strikes? Me, and pretty much anyone else who can think rationally about the future.

Or do you not believe in writing a will either?

Planning and Fun (1)

jsrjsr (658966) | about a year and a half ago | (#43176465)

My grandmother had Alzheimer's. My mother is now at the stage where it may show up and has been under the stress of that knowledge for at least 6 years now. She may have liked to know 6 years ago what she should try to plan for the future.

Me? I'm not sure if I would want to know or not -- might be able to decide depending on whether mom starts showing symptoms or not -- right now the risk seems a little removed yet.

Re:What's the point? (3, Interesting)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169991)

I dunno.

I think it's more like being told in 6 years you WILL have alzhiemers and there's nothing you can do about it. And, yes, the test is 100% accurate.

Depressing.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43170393)

I think it's more like being told in 6 years you WILL have alzhiemers [...]

Doesn't work that way.
This tells you that you already have alzheimer's, but that you won't be showing symptoms for up to 6 years.

[...]and there's nothing you can do about it

It's a good thing to know though. Getting your affairs in order is very important when dealing with dementia.

Re:What's the point? (2)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170815)

A specific selective test even in the middle of dementia (symptom) identifying Alzheimer's (disease) is beneficial. There's other causes of dementia, and (until now) Alzheimer's can only be conclusively diagnosed postmortem (currently advanced imaging is used to rule out other causes of dementia by process of elimination, but diagnosis isn't confirmed until the autopsy).

Also, a successful diagnosis early in the process can eliminate much of the fear and confusion about the source of the dementia. Of course you replace that with fear regarding the disease - but at least you don't have the confusion and often family/peer conflict arising from unknown (and perhaps unrealized) early stage dementia.

Finally, I'll address Nut Job (hello AC (starter of this thread) do you mind if I address you as Nut Job, perhaps NJ for short? That'll help differentiate between you and the other ACs in this thread).

Nut Job seems to want a treatment before diagnosis of a disease which progresses asymptomatically for many years. Now I personally would prefer my doctor to not put me through a regimen of medicine, radiation, chemotherapy, organ transplant (and additional organ transplant due to the failure induced by the new standard of preventative care) based on the idea that I may come down with symptoms at some point in the future. I suspect that other people and their physicians (and regulatory bodies) may also feel the same. Now NJ, you may be thinking that I've engaged in some hyperbole and perhaps skated across the line into a common logical fallacy or two, but I'm also willing to bet that my point has been communicated. So I'll end with QED which I believe is a Latin acronym for "neener, neener!"

Re:What's the point? (0)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170015)

The only way to die with dignity of degenerative disease is to help with research into its cure, even if that means dying because of the treatments you've taken.

Suicide helps nobody but yourself. I suppose it's your right, but it's totally selfish.

Re:What's the point? (3, Interesting)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170817)

People with a degenerative disease are losing their mental faculties. It's happening slowly enough that people around them don't notice it immediately, but with time they become more confused and unaware of their surroundings. They become less and less capable of the basic things that get other people through life on a day by day basis. They might not be able to go to the toilet hygenically, they might forget how to cook, they forget where things are - but worse - they forget and become unaware that they even have a condition.

The joke of old people always thinking nurses are stealing their things is a joke about dementia and shouldn't be a joke at all. From their perspective they put something down, or threw it out, and then later couldn't remember doing that and think it must've been stolen. You have people all around you all the time constantly managing you, but you don't remember who they are or why they're there at times.

Research the cure? Really? Even if the person was an expert in neurological disease, in that state they would have no chance of remotely helping. You lose your agency and become a burden on your relatives yet are simultaneously likely to drive them away and their last memories of you are not going to be of the person you once were.

The saddest thing, about Alzheimers and dementia and other conditions of their kind is that by the time you would definitely euthanize yourself, you're incapable of really giving informed consent about it at all. If I could have 6 years of warning that I would have Alzheimer's symptoms later, then the biggest problem would be that I couldn't take a time-delay poison that would kill me after 8 if I forgot to delay it.

Re:What's the point? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43171911)

Research the cure? Really? Even if the person was an expert in neurological disease, ...

I don't think the GPP was suggesting that everyone start their own research project, but that they should volunteer to be subjects in real ongoing research. There are treatments for AD that work in mice, but have not been used on people because they haven't shown to be 100% safe. Meanwhile millions are losing their minds and dying. I would be good if people could volunteer for risky, possibly lethal, medical experiments, if that could lead to a cure that would help many others. That would give some meaning and purpose to the end of their life. As a society, we need to consider the risk of doing medical research, but we need to balance that against the cost of not doing the research.

Re:What's the point? (2)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172855)

Though in some cases, nurses actually do steal stuff. It happens.
My mom languished in a nursing home for 10 years, with Alzheimer's and dementia, a very long time actually, before she died. The family made sure no valuables were kept there, so fortunately I can't say I saw it happen from personal anecdote.

It's heartbreaking to watch someone lose their minds, their memories; their very identity. I'd rather be dead than suffer that. This test is a good thing though, as at least Alz won't be able to sneak up on it's victims like it usually does -at first it's hard to tell if it's just forgetfulness due to old age or something more serious. Research seems to be closing in and treatment in the near future looks promising.

Re:What's the point? (2)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172263)

The only way to die with dignity of degenerative disease is to help with research into its cure, even if that means dying because of the treatments you've taken.

Suicide helps nobody but yourself. I suppose it's your right, but it's totally selfish.

Bollocks. You do not have a moral duty to suffer for the sake of other people you don't even know. Before life becomes intolerable, and while I am still capable, if I want to end it, I will.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Tyler Durden (136036) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172287)

Suicide helps nobody but yourself. I suppose it's your right, but it's totally selfish.

You say this as if selfishness is a bad thing. Sometimes in this life you just have to look out for yourself. This would count as one of those times.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43173573)

Suicide helps nobody but yourself.

1) How is it being selfish if you kill yourself before you start becoming more trouble than you're worth? If you kill yourself cleanly and quickly you cause far fewer problems than if you linger around for years or even decades with alzheimers. Have you ever seen people with late stage alzheimers? A once polite person could go around molesting or attacking people. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_stages_of_alzheimers.asp [alz.org]
2) Some insurance companies have policies that will pay out on suicides as long as the suicide is after the designated period. http://www.ehow.com/facts_6371163_life-paid-out-after-suicide_.html [ehow.com]

Is it really so selfish if you suicide before Stage 6? It seems more selfish to not to. By that time even if someone comes up with treatments it's probably too late - too many brain cells would have already died.

Re:What's the point? (5, Informative)

pchimp (767649) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170681)

There's growing evidence that treating Alzheimer's early, before substantial amyloid plaques have formed, can quite significantly delay the onset of symptoms. You need early screening tools to implement this.

Re:What's the point? (3, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#43171725)

There's growing evidence that treating Alzheimer's early, before substantial amyloid plaques have formed, can quite significantly delay the onset of symptoms.

Indeed. If you know you have AD, there are preventative measures you can take to delay, and possibly avoid, the onset. There are antibodies that can eliminate the amyloid plaques, but if you wait too long, there is too much and the antibodies cause fatal brain inflammation. Here is an article with more information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23217740 [nih.gov] . Wikipedia also has a good overview [wikipedia.org] .

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43176305)

so start taking the drugs early, and your alzheimers won't kick in for 15 vs 6. bought me close to an extra decade so awesome.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43170787)

Six extra years for the insurance providers to deny all health insurance. Corporate health care for insurance providers is the force that keeps the galax..society together.

Re:What's the point? (0)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172411)

Six extra years for the insurance providers to deny all health insurance.

But, but...I thought with Obamacare, they couldn't do that anymore....?

Isn't that what is supposed to make it so great?

Re:What's the point? (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year and a half ago | (#43177073)

We'll see.

If the U. S. House of Representatives had a bit of simple integrity all of us would have the same coverage as do they. This would greatly simplify so much.

Re:What's the point? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year and a half ago | (#43182919)

If the U. S. House of Representatives had a bit of simple integrity all of us would have the same coverage as do they. This would greatly simplify so much.

I think it takes BOTH houses to do that.

Frankly, I'd like to see all of congress and the president, subject to the same benefits as the general populace...why should they get special tx?

Re:What's the point? (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year and a half ago | (#43188519)

Sure, it takes both chambers to pass a bill and submit it for executive signature. I likely learned that in school maybe fifty years ago and didn't mean to suggest it was otherwise.

I meant only what I said. I simply ran with "the people" having the same health care benefits as those enjoyed by members of "the people's House". It seemed a simple enough idea.

I like your more inclusive idea but think it'd be more difficult to enact.

Can this test distinguish fraud? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43195289)

My mother showed an ugly side in her later years. She evicted family, liquidated assets, tricked people into signing power of attorney.

I'm not sure, but I think her own half-brother might have tried to sue her, after, I surmise, now (older and wiser) a will might have disappeared.

She's still alive, the last time I checked, living the good life, in Marin County. She's diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It started when she wandered up to some policewoman, somewhere, in downtown San Francisco, and told them she was lost. So now she has a personal, onsite servant, at government expense.

I can't help but notice that Alzheimer's is a pretty airtight legal defense ... and I can't help but wonder if she's faking it.

Because I know that with age, comes the opportunity for forgetfulness ... but because I also know that someone who has experience with such a person, themselves, might protect themselves from such people by testing them - by pretending to be forgetful, when in fact they are not, to see if the person will try and take advantage of the situation, or if they will act honorably ... I have no doubt that there are a lot of old people whose forgetfulness is not as great as it seems.

Just like not as many people are quite as deaf as they claim - 'I didn't hear you' becomes unstoppable when given medical backing, but the claim is not always as true as you might think.

And so, in closing ... it would be pretty useful to see a happy fusion of law and medicine, for once, applying a scientific test to verify that a person did, indeed, have Alzheimer's - and isn't just faking it.

Re:What's the point? (4, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169809)

Now they can figure out who has it, before it is too late. I heard it described as "this test is like before mammograms, when a woman found out she has breast cancer It was always stage 4 at that point". Now, with a test, researchers have a better window to fight it.

Re:What's the point? (2)

eth1 (94901) | about a year and a half ago | (#43171289)

Now they can figure out who has it, before it is too late.

Now insurance companies can figure out who will get it, so they can make sure they don't get stuck with you.

I suppose most Alzheimer's patients would be on Medicare, but the long term care insurance companies would love this.

Re:What's the point? (1)

RespekMyAthorati (798091) | about a year and a half ago | (#43179663)

Now insurance companies can figure out who will get it, so they can make sure they don't get stuck with you.

Only in America. Civilized countries don't allow this.

Re:What's the point? (1)

psydeshow (154300) | about a year and a half ago | (#43184875)

Now insurance companies can figure out who will get it, so they can make sure they don't get stuck with you.

Actually, I think most health insurance companies would consider someone who is set to develop Alzheimer's in six years a pretty good risk. They are likely to be dead within 10 years. There aren't any particularly effective medications, and no expensive medical procedures associated with the disease. There is the cost of placement in a nursing home during the final stages, but that's about it.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169901)

so shortsighted. do you think anyone is working on a treatment ?

Re:What's the point? (2)

tlambert (566799) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169973)

A good screening test is one that identifies a treatable disease.

It's six years in which to eliminate aluminum in your drinking water and get rid of those aluminum pans, drinking from aluminum cans, and aluminum water bottles. The Wikipedia article on the disease shows links to 3 studies where there is a high correlation between dietary and/or drinking water aluminum exposure and the onset of Alzheimer's.

Moses' people couldn't make bricks without straw, and your brain can't make amyloid plaques without aluminum.

Re:What's the point? (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170019)

Drinking from Aluminum cans isn't going to expose you to Aluminum, at least not much. Instead it will expose you to plastics which strongly resemble sex hormones, because the cans are lined with plastic, and all plastic beverage containers leach toxics into their contents.

Re:What's the point? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year and a half ago | (#43175567)

That was a possible theory. The research from last year about the tao protein being a zinc-dependent molecule pretty much ushered it out as the likely cause. There was even a Slashdot article about the discovery.

Re:What's the point? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year and a half ago | (#43175577)

oops, improper nesting.

Re:What's the point? (2)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170235)

Moses' people couldn't make bricks without straw, and your brain can't make amyloid plaques without aluminum.

Since Aluminum comprises a full 8% of the earth's crust, good luck with that.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Frans Faase (648933) | about a year and a half ago | (#43171195)

For a balanced view on the role of aluminum, read Aluminium and Alzheimer's disease [alzheimers.org.uk] .

Re:What's the point? (1)

Zeromous (668365) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172485)

This is just plain bunk science.right here. I expect more out of such a low UID

Re:What's the point? (1)

hairyfish (1653411) | about a year and a half ago | (#43179027)

This is just plain bunk science.right here. I expect more out of such a low UID

Why? Since when did being old ever guarantee being smart?

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43180897)

Old nothing. Post quality everything.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43180715)

Maybe he should have taken the test six years ago.

Re:What's the point? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year and a half ago | (#43175689)

That was a possible theory. The research from last year about the tao protein being a zinc-dependent molecule pretty much ushered it out as the likely cause. There was even a Slashdot article about the discovery.

Re:What's the point? (1)

ledow (319597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170575)

Don't be stupid.

A good screening test is one that provides a definitive answer. You DEFINITELY have AIDS / rabies / smallpox, for example. Whether you can treat/cure AIDS/rabies/smallpox? Well, that's something else entirely.

But if you can't screen to provide a diagnosis, then you can't isolate symptoms, spot OTHER symptoms which may be masked by similar diseases that someone DOESN'T have (and only a screen will tell you that), or work out how to manage the condition, even if you can't treat it. Management might refer to, for example, being told not to share your blood with AIDS, or getting benefits and home-help for Alzheimer's, or even just "don't do this particular exercise / take this particular drug".

We can't "treat" most allergic reactions. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't be screened for them, or that you can't manage the condition if it's diagnosed.

And, actually, Alzheimer's is a condition that you can actually change the severity of if you know it's coming. Not by much, and not for ever, but that's enough to justify getting a working screen for it.

From these guys though? When they publish something, and they let their methodologies and results get ripped apart in public, then I'll believe them.

Re:What's the point? (1)

quantumghost (1052586) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172615)

Don't be stupid.

Despite not agreeing totally with the start of this thread, there is _some_ validity to what was said: From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] (not my favorite source, mind you)

Principles of screening

World Health Organization guidelines were published in 1968, but are still applicable today.[2]

The condition should be an important health problem.

There should be a treatment for the condition.

Facilities for diagnosis and treatment should be available.

There should be a latent stage of the disease.

There should be a test or examination for the condition.

etc

A good screening test is one that provides a definitive answer. You DEFINITELY have AIDS / rabies / smallpox, for example. Whether you can treat/cure AIDS/rabies/smallpox? Well, that's something else entirely.

Actually, you are wrong here. There are very few tests in medicine that are "absolute answers". Every test has an error rate associated with it. We typically look at sensitivity (the chances of actually detecting the disease) and specificity (the chance of the positive test being the disease in question). This leads to the concepts of false-positives(you don't have the disease, but the test says you do) and false-negatives(you have the disease but we missed it). Going further down the statistical highway, when we include the incidence of the disease in the population and the probability that an individual has a disease...that yields positive or negative predictive values (the chances that a positive (or negative) test is indicative of existence (or absence) of disease in that person.

Let me be brief, and state no test is 100% sensitive nor 100% specific, and while you may approach 100% with PPV or NPV, the other cannot, therefore, be 100%.

As such the original article is very wrong in their claims:

says their new technology can diagnose Alzheimer's disease up to six years before symptoms appear with 100 percent accurac

The program analyzes patients' eye movements and time spent looking at familiar and new images and then generates a score. Kaplan said 100 percent of subjects who scored below 50 percent on the test have gone to receive an Alzheimer's diagnosis within six years, while none of those who scored above 67 have developed Alzheimer's.

I'm sorry, what is their prediction when the patient scores a 55?

But if you can't screen to provide a diagnosis, then you can't isolate symptoms, spot OTHER symptoms which may be masked by similar diseases that someone DOESN'T have (and only a screen will tell you that), or work out how to manage the condition, even if you can't treat it. Management might refer to, for example, being told not to share your blood with AIDS, or getting benefits and home-help for Alzheimer's, or even just "don't do this particular exercise / take this particular drug".

Er....I'm not sure _what_ you are trying to say here. But let me clarify: screening does not by definition provide a diagnosis....it mere raises the level of concern. Take the (very poorly chosen) example of breast cancer....mammography (which is starting to fall [nejm.org] out of favor for screening [nejm.org] ) screening alerts the physician to the potential for a cancer. After mammography, typically we attempt to obtain a tissue diagnosis (biopsy) to "prove" a cancer. But even then, errors can still be made.

A good screening test [ama-assn.org] has the following:

be capable of detecting a high proportion of disease in its preclinical state***

be safe to administer

be reasonable in cost

lead to demonstrated improved health outcomes

be widely available, as must the interventions that follow a positive result

*** the point not mentioned here is that most screening tests have high sensitivities, but in doing so have a high false positive rate (you want to catch all potential cases, and in doing so, you have the bar set so low that you will pick up a lot of false positives).

We can't "treat" most allergic reactions. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't be screened for them, or that you can't manage the condition if it's diagnosed.

FYI, we usually don't screen for allergic reaction....the variety of allergens is too high, and the incidence is too low. Typically people under go allergy testing after a reaction.

Treatment is simply avoiding the allergen, and when unavoidable, treatment consists of some variety of antihistamine, catecholamine, steroids, hemodynamic and ventilatory support. And we can "cure" allergic reaction or at least mitigate them via desensitization.

And, actually, Alzheimer's is a condition that you can actually change the severity of if you know it's coming. Not by much, and not for ever, but that's enough to justify getting a working screen for it.

From these guys though? When they publish something, and they let their methodologies and results get ripped apart in public, then I'll believe them.

You can't change the severity of the progression [aafp.org] of Alzheimer's...rather you can delay the progression. The problem is that we still don't even know why Alzheimer's does what it does [nih.gov] ....the plaques seem to be a sign, but remember correlation is not causation.

Please note in the this article, there are many non-pharmacological therapies, or treatments for the non-cognitive aspects of the disease.

I do agree, they need to provide a lot more proof that what I've seen so far

I don't want to sound like I'm bashing here, but there are a lot of errors that are being promulgated in both the original article and in this thread....this was merely a convenient point at which to address both. For further indepth reading on medical testing and how it functions [ajronline.org]

What's the Point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169681)

Advance knowledge that you're gonna lose your mind over time? That seems to happen to MOST folks after they get old enough.

Just presume you're gonna get it and look for the freaking TREATMENT or PREVENTION of it.

Re:What's the Point? (3, Informative)

slimak (593319) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169813)

Looking for treatment and prevention requires a good way to measure if a therapy is working. Using clinical progression to Alzheimer's disease (AD) requires a huge multi-year study to get any real statistical power. Not everyone goes on to develop AD, people die from other stuff, etc. If a treatment doesn't work, you've just wasted lots of $ and time to find that out (e.g., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18305231 [nih.gov] ). Maybe you had your dose wrong, maybe you had the timing off, ... The search space for a treatment is HUGE, there has a to be an efficient way to quickly (relative here) and accurately determine if a therapy works. Having a way to detect and monitor neurodegenerative diseases would be awesome from a research standpoint. It would allow therapy to be tested using a cross sectional study rather than a longitudinal study.

SXSW has a health prize? (1, Flamebait)

barlevg (2111272) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169697)

Only on Austin would a music festival give out "startup accelerator" awards...

Re:SXSW has a health prize? (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169759)

SXWS isn't a "music festival". There is an interactive, a film, and a music portion. My guess is this was part of the Interactive portion which focuses on tech.

Duplicate post (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169699)

You morons just posted this article last week. Here's the link:

Uh oh...

This device can detect Alzheimer's! (5, Funny)

Quakeulf (2650167) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169711)

This device can detect Alzheimer's, and it sure as hell can detect Alzheimer's!

Re:This device can detect Alzheimer's! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169861)

What doesn't kill you never made Nietzsche consider Alzheimer's.

Re:This device can detect Alzheimer's! (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172307)

What doesn't kill you never made Nietzsche consider Alzheimer's.

Nietzsche died of syphilitic madness. I seriously doubt it made him stronger in any way whatsoever.

100 percent accuracy?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169717)

NOTHING is 100% accurate. It doesn't look good if you start with a bullshit statement...

Re:100 percent accuracy?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43169819)

Nonsense. I can do this. Just wait until they get Alzheimer's, then predict it! It's certainly "up to six years".

100% accuracy? (5, Informative)

balsy2001 (941953) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169725)

Not quite in line with the data. FTFA "Kaplan said 100 percent of subjects who scored below 50 percent on the test have gone to receive an Alzheimer's diagnosis within six years, while none of those who scored above 67 have developed Alzheimer's." This doesn't equate to 100% accuracy. What happens between 50 and 67%? Plus it doesn't say what the sample size is. Is it 1, 10, 100, 1000? Some more robust statistics would have been nice. They were probably trying to keep it simple instead of confusing people with 99/99, but they could have said "approaching 100%".

Re:100% accuracy? (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169985)

Within 6 years is a pretty easy prediction if you ask me.

My prediction: "100% of those who scored below 100 percent on the test will be stone cold within 100 years at the most". I guarantee it's 100% accurate too.

Re:100% accuracy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43170011)

They've done studies, you know. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.

Re:100% accuracy? (1)

ptresadern (1882962) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172185)

Especially bad if it turns out that 99% of the people tested scored between 50 and 67...

Re:100% accuracy? (1)

perceptual.cyclotron (2561509) | about a year and a half ago | (#43177433)

The only peer review study I can find searching for "Neurotrack" and "Alzheimer’s" is "A Behavioral Task Predicts Conversion to Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease" (Zola et al, 2012; doi: 10.1177/1533317512470484). They had 32 mild cognitive impairment and 60 controls, and followed for 3 years.

From the abstract:

Scores on the VPC task predicted, up to 3 years prior to a change in clinical diagnosis, those patients with MCI who would and who would not progress to AD and CON participants who would and would not progress to MCI.

So it's hard to know what data is substantiating the claims we see in TFA. Certainly nothing at a clinical level, but it also seems quite promising. Probably a mix of genuinely encouraging early results and typical start-up exaggerations. I hope it lives up to its promise!

Re:100% accuracy? (1)

perceptual.cyclotron (2561509) | about a year and a half ago | (#43177587)

Hate to self-reply, but I've read the paper now – and it's definitely the source paper for the data in the posting (50% and 67% figures are right in the text). Given the paper was published december 2012 and reported a 3-year follow-up, and that the current report claims a 6 year followup, I have to wonder why it took them basically 3 years to publish the original study. In any event, a few more details:

9 subjects fell into the sub-50% range, 8 of these had further impairment at the time of publication (3 years), so presumably the holdout also ticked over in the subsequent 3 years. I've got to say that 9 is an awfully small set to draw strong conclusions from, with respect to positive identification.

43 subjects fell into the >= 67% range, and none of these worsened in three years. If we believe the current report, they're still ok.

40 fell between 50 and 67, and 9 of these got worse.

To summarize, about 43% of the sample fell in the grey area. Within that area, doing some hacky fiddling with the ROC curve they provide, the area under the curve is something like .56 – which ain't very good. So basically what the data says is that people who perform very poorly are likely to show cognitive decline. Of the remaining folk, 50% won't get worse, and 50% may or may not....

So we're not looking at a slam-dunk here. But it's got some promise.

Sigh. (4, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43169919)

Claim of 100% accuracy.
A Twitter full of "launch" and "pitch" announcements and not much else.
A website that is nothing more than a placeholder.

Yeah, they're going straight into the history books, they are.

You want me to believe you, publish, and let people rip it apart. If the public-facing part of your whole organisation is talking of nothing more than startup awards and pitches, I don't see how you can be doing proper research, or how you can be selling it to medical establishments. And without bothering to provide evidence of either, I can only assume it's snake-oil.

Re:Sigh. (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170155)

Hey we have working cold fusion in Italy now, didn't you see the tests?

Re:Sigh. (1)

slinches (1540051) | about a year and a half ago | (#43171501)

Oh, so that's what was creating the smoke that so many people were interested in earlier this week. White smoke means cold fusion rather than hot?

Re:Sigh. (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about a year and a half ago | (#43172663)

I was more talking about the E-Cat fiasco.

Sensitivity vs. specificity (4, Insightful)

janek78 (861508) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170031)

It is very easy to make a test that detects 100% of patients who will eventually get a disease. Just make it always say "positive" and you're done. The hard thing is balancing the ability to detect a disease and avoid false negatives (sensitivity) with the ability to detect absence of disease and avoid false positives (specificity). Related to this are the positive predictive negative predictive values. Since Alzheimer's is very difficult to diagnose clinically and the only definitive proof is a biopsy/autopsy, I very much doubt a screening test would exist with a 100 % sensitivity and/or specificity.

Re:Sensitivity vs. specificity (1)

Cassini2 (956052) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170439)

With a sufficiently small sample size, 100% accuracy is easy to achieve. Confidence limits on the other hand ...

Diagnose Alzheimer's with your smart phone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43170113)

I call bullshit! How does this differentiate between Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia?? "... the technology could also be developed into a smartphone and tablet app that consumers can use at home." Precisely, what a marketing joke, I'm certain that clinicians the world over will be eternally grateful. The lack of substance in the article and definite lack of peer reviewed science makes me pretty skeptical, but I shouldn't have to and am not going to hand over my e-mail address to their website to find out more.

Not time to get up yet (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#43170245)

Asking "What time is it" every 3 minutes is a pretty good indication of Alzheimer's

How WIll It Be Misused? (1)

jasnw (1913892) | about a year and a half ago | (#43171723)

This will be useful to patients when there's something that can really be done for them once the early diagnosis is made. Right now all of the actions that can be taken are in the "we hope this will slow down the symptoms" category, and the sad fact is that it's hard to even prove that (unless you ask a Big Pharma marketing agent). The big concern is how organizations like medical insurance companies will use such information to the detriment of the patient, as in resulting in sky-high premiums if they can get insurance at all. My wife has MS, and she can't get long-term care insurance at any price. I have a family history of Alzheimer's, but my brother and I have both decided that we won't take any tests of this nature until there's a gain for us to balance out the risk of the information being used against us.

Most Alzheimer's is actually CJD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43173903)

When the UK created the BSE/CJD crisis (by removing all farming regulations that prevented cross-species 'contamination- protocols that had existed in Human farming for tens of thousands of years), it seemed that Humanity would pay a high price. Luckily, apart from a few people with the 'wrong' genes, 'mad cow disease' turned out to be a condition that almost exclusively strikes very late in life.

Most of you will be too dumb to know this, but the official position of WHO is that the explosion of Alzheimer's cases in the elderly that corresponded with the expected explosion of CJD cases in the Human population is nothing but a 'coincidence'.

Meanwhile, in the nation that created the problem in the first place, we have the 'horse-meat' scandal. So what, you may say. THINK! Horse-meat is passed off as 'beef'. Brits (and the rest of the world) were told that the beef supply in the UK was the 'safest' in the world, because of all the food safety protocols that were put in place after the 'mad cow' scandal. It turns out there is ZERO regulation of the beef industry in the UK. No testing. No control of 'sourcing'. No monitoring of storage.

In the UK, criminals literally have free reign in the food biz. Indeed, the ONLY concern the UK government has shown is in allowing the construction of massive warehouses all across Europe, so that insane quantities of food may by stockpiled in order to manipulate the price of food and send the supermarket prices soaring ever upward. It is common for meat sold in Britain to be years old, and fruit/veg 6 months+, all so speculators can maximise the prices of food items.

A consequence of the food 'stock-market' that Britain unleashed across the EU is that criminal gangs from ex-soviet States can take advantage of the much lower standard of living in their nations to 'game' the system with produce from the most dubious sources. France and Ireland in particular act as intermediaries for these gangs, allowing 'plausible deniability' for British supermarkets.

EU law requires all major suppliers of food have their products lab-tested on a regular basis. Even honey is tested to identify its true origin. How then did so much fake beef enter the system? In the light of mad-cow disease, the answer should terrify all of you.

Today, mad cow disease is handled NOT by ensuring the livestock is free from infection, but by hiding levels of infection from the public gaze (slaughter the cow early enough, and the symptoms will not have made themselves apparent, even though the meat is infected). Meat preparation was supposed to follow safety protocols over contamination from the brain and spine of the cow, but these protocols were ended a long time ago in practice, and beef gelatine is once more commonly used in Human food stuffs.

You betas that love Obama and his wars, and cheer when depraved Nazi propaganda like 'Argo' wins 'Best Picture' at the Oscars have your loyalty to your masters rewarded like this. The more you act like a dog, the more you will be treated like a dog. Alzheimer's is a terrible way to go. The CJD variant (technically not the same thing) that forms the majority of so-called Alzheimer's cases today is a MUCH worse fate.

Saccades (1)

Udom (978789) | about a year and a half ago | (#43175039)

"By monitoring the way a person moves their eyes, and watching how they view novel images versus familiar images, we're able to detect perturbations that exist on the hippocampus". That's an unsupported leap. Each of us makes about 250,000 saccades every day and their targeting is controlled by a variety of brain modules, including the amygdala. Saccades are made to targets that hold significance. Alzheimers patients are reported to make far fewer saccades than healthy people, and some studies have shown improvements in mental functioning with exercises to increase the frequency of saccades. To some extent dementia sufferers lose contact with the world because they lose all interest. Memories that are not felt to be important are either not laid down properly in the hippocampus or are quickly deleted. All this experiment proves is that those who did poorly had little interest in the set task.
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