Researchers close to developing a blood test for detecting Alzheimer’s

By @iamkarlatecson on
Blood test
Blood tests are pictured at the laboratory of the hospital of the Canton of Nidwalden in Stans, October 27, 2011. Reuters/Michael Buholzer

Researchers claim they are close to developing a blood test that can accurately detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease in patients. This would give physicians an opportunity to intervene at the most treatable stage, according to the team from the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

In detecting Alzheimer’s long before symptoms manifest, those with disease-related autoantibody biomarkers will hopefully be encouraged to make lifestyle changes to slow the disease, Dr Robert Nagele said. Nagele, a professor at the Rowan University, presented the study at the Osteopathic Medical Conference & Exposition in Orlando.  

“There are significant benefits to early disease detection because we now know that many of the same conditions that lead to vascular disease are also significant risk factors for Alzheimer’s,” Nagele explained in a press release. He said that those who are found to have preclinical disease can take steps to improve their vascular health, including watching their diet, exercising and managing any weight and blood pressure issues to help stave off or slow disease progression.

In addition to detecting Alzheimer’s, the blood test developed by Nagele and his team also shows promise in identifying other diseases, such as Parkinsons, multiple sclerosis and breast cancer. 

The team’s study explains that all humans possess thousands of autoantibodies in their blood, which specifically bind to blood-borne cellular debris generated by organs and tissues all over the body. An individual’s autoantibody profile is said to be strongly influenced by age, gender and the presence of specific diseases or injuries. Changes in autoantibody profiles caused by diseases can serve as biomarkers that reveal the presence of the disease, the researchers noted.

In June 2015, a team of scientists at King’s College London revealed that a simple blood test can be used to predict if a person is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s within 10 years. The researchers identified a single blood protein that may indicate the development of Mild Cognitive Impairment years before symptoms appear. Mild Cognitive Impairment is a disorder that has been associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.

For the first time, the team found that the blood level of a protein, called MAPKAPK5, was, on average, lower in individuals whose cognitive ability declined over a 10-year period. According to their study, identifying blood markers such as MAPKAPK5, which may indicate a person’s future risk of Alzheimer’s disease, could contribute toward a better design of prevention trials.

To date, the specific cause of Alzheimer’s disease remains unknown. More than 340,000 Australians are reported to be living with dementia. Alzheimer’s is said to be the most common form of dementia, which is the second leading cause of deaths in Australia. Without a medical breakthrough, the number of people with dementia is expected to be almost 900,000 by 2050.

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