It has been accurate for 90% of patients were tested so far.
Scientists have been successful in developing a new blood test where a tiny drop of blood could be useful for predict the onset of Alzheimer’s. This means that the patient could get better care and the preventative measures could be taken much earlier.
The key to this method is detecting the presence of amyloid beta (Aβ) deposits or plaques, that are generally thought to be one of the main drivers of Alzheimer’s. To date, this detection of plaques has been tricky and impossible as far as the blood test goes. Now, this is about to change. This is based on a study of 373 Australian and Japanese patients, that the amyloid beta build up was accurately predicted in more than 90 percent of patients that have undergone the new procedure.
“From a tiny blood sample, our method can measure several amyloid-related proteins, even though their concentration is extremely low,” says one of the team, Koichi Tanaka from the Shimadzu Corporation in Japan.
“We found that the ratio of these proteins was an accurate surrogate for brain amyloid burden.”
Later he stated that- we are still not sure how Alzheimer’s starts and develops, but the abnormal levels of amyloid beta and the other proteins called tau seem to play a big role. Originally, these proteins start to assembling long before noticeable Alzheimer’s symptoms that are memory loss that could be as many as 20 or 30 years prior.
However, expensive brain scans or difficult spinal fluid extraction are currently used to measure amyloid beta levels; but on the other hand the diagnosis of the disease often just relies on looking for the visible symptoms of Alzheimer’s, at which stage is well developed. This because we need a new early warning system, that requires just a small blood sample that might give several decades of warning; could be revolutionary.
This new process works using mass spectrometry that is meant for ionizing and scans blood for a particular peptide or amino acid compound that is thought to be linked to the amyloid beta concentrations. On the other hand, a lot more is required to verify the link, it could result in a promising start.
While we don’t even have a cure for Alzheimer’s, knowing it’s on the way could help prompt some lifestyle changes regarding sleep, diet, and exercise that might help reduce its impact. What beyond? It could also help researchers with a useful shortlist of people that would be suitable for clinical trials, that would give us a faster route to an eventual cure.
“I can see in the future, five years from now, where people have a regular checkup every five years after age 55 or 60 to determine whether they are on the Alzheimer’s pathway or not,” lead researcher Colin Masters, from the University of Melbourne in Australia, told the Associated Press.
Now, other research teams are also working on these blood tests to try and detect Alzheimer’s, but so far none of them have made it out of the laboratory it is just an indication of just how hard it is to identify and deal with this disease.
Moreover, it is very encouraging that efforts are being made with a progress that could affect millions in the US alone; here, more than 5 million people live with Alzheimer’s, and it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
“This new test has the potential to eventually disrupt the expensive and invasive scanning and spinal fluid technologies,” says Masters.
“In the first instance, however, it will be an invaluable tool in increasing the speed of screening potential patients for new drug trials.”
The research about Alzheimer’s has been published in Nature.