Getting a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s can be a huge challenge – the only scans that confirm the presence of the disease (PET or spinal tap) are incredibly expensive and, therefore, not widely available. Scientists believe that early diagnosis is crucial to finding treatments for the disease so they can get people enrolled in clinical trials before the damage to their brains is too significant for drugs to have an effect. According to new research presented at the conference, they might be a step closer to this goal. Researchers at Washington University in St Louis, have a developed a blood test that can confirm the presence of amyloid plaques in the brain. They compared the ratios of types of beta-amyloid in 41 people’s blood with PET scans showing how much beta-amyloid had aggregated in their brains and found a clear match.
Amyloid plaques start developing 15 to 20 years before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease start to show so detecting the plaques early on could be crucial in treating the disease before it progresses to an advanced stage. The study was met with cautious optimism by the Alzheimer’s Association but needs to be validated with a larger sample before it can be considered viable. The researchers are currently conducting the same tests with 180 people – watch this space.
Read the full breakdown in the New Scientist here.