Saturday, March 12, 2011

Improving diagnostic tests for sCJD (the scariest thing ever, in my opinion)

A paper published this week from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine claims that researchers have found a new biomarker for sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (sCJD). The biomarker is the iron-transport protein transferrin (Tf), which is involved in the brain's metabolism of iron. Tf levels were found to be much lower in people with sCJD when compared to people affected by dementia unrelated to sCJD. 

Tf levels served as a biomarker for sCJD with a sensitivity of 85% and a specificity of 72%. The findings suggest that Tf-based diagnostic tests will have better accuracy than current tests, which use biomarkers (14-3-3 proteins and T-tau) that have abnormal levels in not only sCJD, but a variety of other diseases. 

Having a more accurate biomarker for sCJD will enable more accurate predictions of whether someone has sCJD or another type of dementia. Being able to differentiate between sCJD and other forms of dementia is important in prevention of sCJD transmission, avoidance of misdiagnosis of non sCJD dementia (which, unlike sCJD-caused dementia, is treatable in some cases), and in working toward an effective treatment for sCJD. In addition, Tf has several other attractive properties. It yields consistent results even when samples of CSF are not well preserved,  is abundant in CSF when compared to 14-3-3 and T-tau proteins (requiring a smaller sample volume), and resists enzyme degradation. 

The future directions of this study as noted in the article include 1) developing the actual test using this new data and 2) testing CSF to see the earliest point at which a difference between individuals with sCJD and individuals without sCJD can be determined.


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