Paving the way for a new approach to Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Read about a research project we funded into new approaches for Alzheimer's diagnosis. 

Lead Investigator: Professor Simon Lovestone

Institution: King's College London

Grant Type: PhD

Duration: 3 years

Amount funded: £75,000

Start Date: April 2011

End Date: June 2014

Scientific Title: Blood based biomarkers of disease pathology in Alzheimer's

What was the project, and what did the researchers do?

Diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease relies on assessment of symptoms such as memory loss and so can only be used to diagnose people who are already showing signs of the disease. There is an urgent need for a better diagnostic tool in order to identify people affected by the condition as soon as possible. This will allow them to be enrolled into suitable clinical trials for treatments for the condition. A great deal of research has focused on finding a reliable biomarker - a biological signal that is unique to Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers used blood samples donated by over a 12 year period by older volunteers who did not have a diagnosis of dementia. They used these samples to determine whether there were any signals in blood that were related to changes that indicated that someone was at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. These changes included a reduction in memory and thinking abilities, a smaller brain size and the increased levels of the Alzheimer’s hallmark protein amyloid seen in brain scans.

What were the key results and how will this benefit people with dementia?

The researchers were able to identify several proteins in blood that changed in the volunteers who were most at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Some of these proteins were already known but some were new. The researchers also found the same result in a different set of volunteers. This is an important way to validate scientific results.

Finding out ways to better identify and diagnose people with dementia is a key area for many researchers. A quick, simple and accurate test would allow people to receive the correct diagnosis as soon as possible. This means that those affected can be enrolled in suitable clinical trials for treatments for their particular condition. 

This study used blood samples donated over a long time period, allowing the researchers to understand how these signals change over time. Information such as this would allow doctors and researchers to monitor someone’s condition over a long period of time.

What happened next? Future work and additional grants

Professor Lovestone’s PhD student on this project, Sarah Westwood, is continuing to work with him to further develop an Alzheimer’s blood test.

How were people told about the results? Conferences and publications

Papers:

The researchers are planning to submit two papers on these findings to peer-reviewed journals.

Oral presentations:

Alzheimer’s Society 2013

Institute of Psychiatry Open day 2012

Poster presentations:

World Congress of Neurology 2013

British Neuroscience Association 2013

Alzheimer’s Society 2011 & 2012

Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2014

Institute of Psychiatry Showcase 2012, 2013, 2014

Newsletters: 

Alzheimer’s Society newsletter

Institute of Psychiatry newsletter

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