New research show promise with blood test for Alzheimer's

Researchers in the US report a 94 per cent accuracy rate in a blood test for Alzheimer's even before symptoms begin.

Purple glove holding tubes with blood

Exciting new research has shown that a recently developed blood test is 94 per cent successful in detecting Alzheimer’s disease.

The research, from Washington University School of Medicine, examined the blood of 158 people. Only 10 people in the study had cognitive decline. Each participant gave a blood sample, was screened for genetics and underwent a brain scan.

Using the blood samples, the researchers measured the levels of amyloid beta protein, which builds up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age. In addition, the number of copies that you have of the gene APOE4 can increase your risk of developing the condition. The blood test was most accurate when researchers combined the measurement with an age of over 65 and APOE4 status.

Detecting Alzheimer's

At first the researcher thought they’d mismatched some of the results, as the blood test was positive for amyloid beta but the brain scan looked normal and the person didn’t have cognitive symptoms.

However, when they followed up, an average of four years later, brain scans began to show the first signs of disease. This meant that the blood test was indicating the disease before the scan could detect it.

This blood test needs more testing to confirm its accuracy before it can be used confidently in practice, but it is a significant breakthrough.

A key reason many trials for Alzheimer’s drugs have failed is that researchers haven’t been able to treat people before the condition takes hold. This test offers hope because it can detect signs of the disease before symptoms have begun.

Dr James Pickett, the Society’s Head of Research, said, 

‘This test will speed up dementia research by identifying those at risk of Alzheimer’s who might be suitable for clinical trials aimed at preventing or delaying the development of dementia.’

Care and cure magazine: Autumn 19

Care and cure is the research magazine of Alzheimer's Society is for anyone interested in dementia research.
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Care and cure is the research magazine of Alzheimer's Society is for anyone interested in dementia research.
Subscribe now
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