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Simple test for Alzheimer's.

A skin test may someday solve one of the great frustrations facing physicians, researchers, and people suffering from memory loss: how to tell for sure whether Alzheimer's disease is responsible for an individual's forgetfulness. Doctors now diagnose this disease by eliminating all other possible causes, including old age, and can confirm that diagnosis only by examining the patient's brain after death.

Now neurobiologists have discovered that a particular "channel" molecule that allows potassium ions to move in and out of cells is missing or nonfunctional in people with Alzheimer's.

These ions play a key role in the formation of memories. So Rene Etcheberrigaray of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md., and his colleagues evaluated these channels in skin cells called fibroblasts, taken from people with and without Alzheimer's.

Those with the disease may also fail to move another key ion, calcium, the team reports in the Sep. 1 PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES. Working with colleagues from Cornell Medical College's Burke Medical Research Institute in White Plains, N.Y., the researchers evaluated skin cells from 50 people and were able to pick out the 15 with Alzheimer's disease. They caution, however, that they need to verify this test in many more people.
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Title Annotation:'channel' molecule in skin cells missing or nonfunctional in people with Alzheimer's disease
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 4, 1993
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