Before it is too late: Addressing professional responsibility in late-onset Alzheimer's dementia research and pre symptomatic prediction


The development of a wide array of molecular and neuroscientific biomarkers can provide the possibility to visualize the course of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at early stages. Many of these biomarkers are aimed at detecting not only a preclinical, but also a pre-symptomatic state. They are supposed to facilitate clinical trials aiming at treatments that attack the disease at its earliest stage or even prevent it. The increasing number of such biomarkers currently tested and now partly proposed for clinical implementation calls for critical reflection on their aims, social benefits, and risks. This position paper summarizes major challenges and responsibilities. Its focus is on the ethical and social problems involved in the organization and application of dementia research, as well as in healthcare provision from a cross-national point of view. The paper is based on a discussion of leading dementia experts from neuroscience, neurology, social sciences, and bioethics in the United States and Europe. It thus reflects a notable consensus across various disciplines and national backgrounds. We intend to initiate a debate on the need for actions within the researchers’ national and international communities.