New testing to improve diagnosis of young-onset Alzheimer’s disease in Ireland

Lead Researcher: Professor Brian Lawlor, Trinity College Dublin

HRB research led to a test being made available in Ireland to help diagnose people under 65 with dementia
In Summary

Around one in 10 people who develop dementia are under 65 when they show symptoms, but it can be difficult to diagnose the underlying cause. A lumbar puncture test to measure the levels of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease in fluid that circulates in the spine and around the brain can provide a clearer diagnosis. Until recently, samples for this ‘cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarker test’ were not analysed in Ireland, but HRB research has led to the test being accredited and made available here.

The Problem

People under 65 who may have Alzheimer’s disease can face delays in getting a diagnosis. Previously, if a clinician wanted to analyse levels of Alzheimer’s‑related proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of a patient in Ireland to get a clearer picture, samples needed to be sent to England for testing.

The Project

Professor Brian Lawlor led a team at Trinity College Dublin and St James’s Hospital who measured the levels of Alzheimer‑related proteins or CSF biomarkers in well characterised patients and healthy volunteers in Ireland. The study was part‑funded by the HRB as part of a wider European study within the Joint Programme on Neurodegeneration (JPND).

The Outcomes

We now know:-

The normal values and thresholds of CSF biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease in an Irish population. Thanks to the HRB research, CSF Biomarker testing to support the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is now available in Ireland at the Immunology Lab, St. James’s Hospital.

Professor Brian Lawlor, Consultant Psychiatrist, St James’s Hospital says:

'Before we did this research, spinal fluid samples had to be sent from Ireland to England for testing. Now that we can carry out the testing here, we are seeing it being used more to help in the diagnosis of people under 65 with signs of dementia. This HRB research has changed medical practice in Ireland around the evaluation of younger patients who may have dementia'.