14 October 2007

Researchers On Verge of Blood Test For Alzheimer's Disease

An international team of scientists say they are on the verge of developing the first blood test for Alzheimer's disease which experts hope will help doctors identify patients with the memory-robbing disease in its earliest stages. Experts say the blood test identifies proteins that are unique to people with Alzheimer's and appear years before there are major symptoms. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

One of the early signs of Alzheimer's disease is forgetfulness. But it can be caused by a number of benign conditions, including aging itself.

The first place most families take their elderly relative for evaluation is not an expert neurologist, according to Todd Golde, a professor of neuroscience at the Mayor Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, but the family physician.

"And for those people, the diagnosis, and an accurate diagnosis, is a challenge," said Todd Golde. "And so I think that would bring a more uniform and consistent diagnosis to across a wider section of people receiving care for Alzheimer's."

Researchers in the United States, Germany and Sweden are working on a blood test, which they describe in the latest issue of of the journal, Nature Medicine.

Using computer analysis, investigators identified 18 proteins that the body uses to communicate with immune and nervous system cells. Researchers compared the proteins in healthy individuals to those with advanced Alzheimer's.

The test was 90 percent accurate in diagnosing the disease in its early stages.

Tony Wyss-Coray, professor of medicine at Stanford University and the report's senior author, says more research is needed to confirm the study's findings. But he believes a blood test may soon be available that could help doctors make a complex diagnosis.

"This might be feasible in a relatively short period of time to have actually a blood test that can at least help in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease and may even be able predict whether a person will develop it if they have memory complaints right now," said Tony Wyss-Coray.

Experts say such information would mean patients would be able to begin early therapy to delay the decline of Alzheimer's, and help families prepare for the devastation of a progressive and fatal illness.

Wyss-Coray is scientific advisor of Satoris Group in San Francisco, California which he founded to develop and market an Alzheimer's test kit, when one becomes reliable. Todd Golde of the Mayo Clinic is an advisor to Satoris and has a financial interest in the company.

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.