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New blood test can detect Alzheimer’s

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A blood test that can detect Alzheimer’s disease with 90 per cent certainty has been developed by scientists from Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington, who believe that it could lead to the early diagnosis of progressive dementia in elderly people.

As the test is only 90 per cent accurate in its current form, it raises ethical concerns that one in ten people could be wrongly diagnosed.

Nevertheless, researchers believe that a blood test for Alzheimer’s could help search for a therapy or cure by identifying those people who are at a high risk and who could benefit most from experimental treatments.

“The accuracy for detection is equal to or greater than that obtained from most published CSF studies,” the researchers wrote in Nature Medicine.

The study involved blood samples from 525 healthy volunteers, over the age of 70, who were monitored over five years, to see whether they went on to develop mild dementia or Alzheimer’s.

The blood test is centred around analysing the fatty chemicals, known as lipids, circulating in the bloodstream, which then begin to change as a result of a breakdown in the membranes of the brain cells associated with Alzheimer’s.

The team of researchers, led by Dr Howard Federoff, identified 10 lipids in the blood that can be used to discover early signs of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Scientists have known that Alzheimer’s disease begins long before the diagnostic symptoms start showing, such as memory loss or confusion, and have tried for many years to find ways of detecting these changes with simple tests that could be used in clinics.

Dr Federoff said the blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk for progressive cognitive decline and can change how patients, their families, and treating physicians plan for and manage the disorder.

“We consider our results a major step toward the commercialisation of a pre-clinical disease biomarker test that could be useful for large-scale screening to identify at-risk individuals,” Dr Federoff said.

“We’re designing a clinical trial where we’ll use a panel to identify people at high risk for Alzheimer’s to test a therapeutic agent that might delay or prevent the emergence of the disease.”

Sanja Novakovic