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Breakthrough in finding Alzheimer’s

A group of researchers has found a new way of detecting Alzheimer’s at an early stage using a biomarker, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

The finding will help in the early treatment of the disease, which is one of the most common forms of dementia in Korea, Dr. Kim Young-yeul, who was in charge of the study, said.

According to his report, the amount of interleukin-8 varies between people with Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment and those in good health. IL-8 is closely related to inflammation and is an important regulator of the immune system.

Kim studied the blood of 59 randomly selected people, comparing their IL-8 levels.

Kim discovered a relationship between plasma IL-8 levels and functional status in MCI and AD patients. The amount of IL-8 went down among AD and MCI patients.

By studying the IL-8 level in the blood, doctors will be able to diagnose whether someone has dementia at an early stage, the KCDC said.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, a total of 160,768 people have been diagnosed with dementia as of 2009, which is about 2.7 times as many as 58,886 in 2005. The government shouldered 59.6 billion won of their medical expenses through the national health insurance.

In 2009, then health minister Jeon Jae-hee proclaimed a “war against dementia,” focusing on early dementia screening, consultations and rehabilitation. The ministry also subsidizes up to 30,000 won per patient for medication.

“Reports suggest that early screening of the disease leads to the postponement of the prevalence. It could make a dramatic change to human lives since the disease is controllable with early-stage medication. Currently, 8.3 percent of people have or will have dementia in their lives but with the early screening, we can reduce the risk by up to 20 percent,” a KCDC official said.

“The new biomarker will contribute to the reduction,” he added.

By Bae Ji-sook (