Ten years ago, Mayo Clinic investigators published a seminal paper on mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Since then, thousands of papers have appeared in the medical literature focusing on this early stage of cognitive disorders. According to Mayo Clinic scientists, understanding MCI plays a critical role in the efforts to identify the earliest markers of Alzheimer’s disease and develop therapies to stop or slow its progression. This month, Mayo Clinic investigators authored a review paper in the Archives of Neurology summarizing both the progress that has been made in the field of MCI and the challenges that remain.
“There is currently a push toward identifying individuals at the earliest clinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease. This is important because the earlier you can intervene with therapies, the more likely you are to prevent further damage to the brain,” says Ronald Petersen, M.D., Ph.D., neurologist and director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. “Over the past decade, we’ve come to realize that MCI may represent the very earliest clinical features of Alzheimer’s disease. Most studies, both here at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere, have demonstrated that individuals with MCI have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease within two to five years.”
The growing interest in MCI also has led to a variety of drug treatment trials that have tested whether it’s possible to slow the progression of MCI to Alzheimer’s disease. According to Dr. Petersen, almost all of these trials have been negative, but it continues to remain an active area of investigation.
“We’re optimistic with regards to potential treatment for MCI and, ultimately, Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Petersen. “MCI is a stage at which individuals are minimally symptomatic, but there is a great deal left to preserve. As researchers and pharmaceutical companies work to design therapies to intervene at the earliest possible stage, we’re hopeful that we’ll eventually be able to stop or slow the rate of cognitive decline.”
The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging has played a significant role in the past decade’s MCI research. Another way Mayo Clinic investigators are participating in the current research efforts is through leadership in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI).
Below is a link to an edited YouTube video with Dr. Petersen.