‘Game changing’ test can predict who will develop Alzheimer’s disease

A “potential game changing” blood test could be used to predict who will develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to scientists.

The diagnostic test is based on the discovery of two protein molecules in the blood which contribute to neuronal damage in the brain.

By identifying the presence of these proteins, doctors could be able to diagnose the disease or distinguish it from other common forms of dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease, named after Alois Alzheimer, the doctor who first described it, is a progressive disease which damages the brain more and more as it continues.

There are over 520,000 people in the UK with dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Although there is no currently no cure, there are a number of treatments and supports available for sufferers.

Dr Oskar Hansson, from Lund University in Sweden, has now developed and verified models which predict how at risk an individual is of cognitive decline and the subsequent transition to Alzheimer’s disease.

With his team, Dr Hansson analysed data from 573 patients to compare how different blood biomarkers predicted cognitive decline and dementia over four years.

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In their research, published in the journal Nature Aging, the researchers have demonstrated how to use these biomarkers to make individualised predictions about disease progression.

Professor Masud Husain, at the University of Oxford, described the research as “a potential game changer” for scientists and health practitioners.

“For the first time, we have a blood test that can predict well the risk of subsequent development of Alzheimer’s disease in people who have mild cognitive symptoms.”

Professor Husain added: “We need further validation but in the context of other recent findings this could be a transformative step to earlier diagnosis, as well as testing new treatments at earlier stages of the disease.”

Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Like dementia, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is an umbrella term describing several symptoms and can be caused by a number of different underlying diseases.

“We know that over 50% of people with MCI will go on to develop dementia and it is important that we try to identify those who will and those who will not – to be able to offer appropriate treatment and advice.”

She added: “Any future dementia treatments will likely need to be given early in the disease process, making it even more important to take findings like these forward – to improve how we diagnose early memory and thinking problems.”

By David Aaron

December 01, 2020

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