Published: Fri, February 02, 2018
Medical | By

Researchers develop blood test to gauge Alzheimer's risk

Researchers develop blood test to gauge Alzheimer's risk

The noninvasive test was developed to detect the presence of the toxic protein amyloid beta, known to be present in people affected by the disease, and did so with 90% accuracy, according to the study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The current methods for detecting amyloids-positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of the brain and measurement of the clumping protein amyloid-β in cerebrospinal fluid-are expensive and invasive.

It's still early days for the research with more testing necessary before the blood test would be deployed into practice for the general public, but a more immediate use could be in evaluating participants for Alzheimer's related clinical trials.

This is why there is a huge amount of research into tests for Alzheimer's.

Significantly, the study shows it is possible to look in the blood to see what is happening in the brain.

By assessing the ratios of types of amyloid fragment, the researchers could accurately predict levels of amyloid beta in the brain.

"We can finally say we have a high-performing blood test [for Alzheimer's disease], which from my point of view is a major achievement", said co-author Professor Colin Masters at the Florey Institute, the University of Melbourne.


Scientists not directly involved in the study said it made an important step, but now needed to be replicated.

It may eventually be used to predict how fast patients will deteriorate and monitor the effectiveness of future treatments aimed at clearing amyloid beta. Buildup of the abnormal protein in the brain is one sign of Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia.

In 2016, dementia became the leading cause of death among Australian females, surpassing heart disease. Following on from that, a simple way to screen for the disease, years before any symptoms actually appear, will help patients apply countermeasures to battle the deleterious effect of these amyloid beta concentrations. "None of the three drugs now on the market treat the underlying disease", Masters said in a statement.

"Progress in developing new therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer's disease has been disappointingly slow".

Alzheimer's disease starts years before patients have any symptoms of memory loss. "New drugs are urgently required, and the only way to do that is to speed up the whole process".

The technique is now only performed in a laboratory at Shimadzu Corporation in Japan, though the researchers were confident they would be able to roll out the technology.

Dr Koichi Tanaka from Japanese medical technology company Shimadzu Corporation was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2002 for developing the blood testing procedure.

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