An Alzheimer’s diagnosis has historically been difficult to confirm. Until recently, only an autopsy could detect Alzheimer’s with certainty. Now, doctors rely on expensive PET brain scans and testing levels of amyloid, the toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s, in cerebrospinal fluid, an invasive and expensive procedure.
But that could change. Recent research by scientists in Japan and Australia shows that a simple blood test could be the only thing we need to detect who may go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers were able to develop a blood test that can measure beta-amyloid in a person’s brain.
Besides the low cost of a potential blood test to detect Alzheimer’s, the convenience and ease of the test could allow doctors to pinpoint who is more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, potentially allowing them access into clinical trials, and eventually a treatment, sooner. The test is currently 90 percent accurate.
“This new test has the potential to eventually disrupt the expensive and invasive scanning and spinal fluid technologies. In the first instance, however, it will be an invaluable tool in increasing the speed of screening potential patients for new drug trials,” said Colin Masters, a professor at the University of Melbourne who co-led the research.
Because the success rate for an Alzheimer’s drug has been almost non-existent, doctors have recently widened their focus from targeting patients who are currently living with Alzheimer’s to those who haven’t developed the disease yet, but may go on to develop it, based on the levels of beta-amyloid in their brains. And figuring out who is most likely to develop it could be as simple as pricking a finger, if research to validate this test continues.
Professor Katsuhiko Yanagisawa, Director-general of Research Institute at NCGG, says: “Our study demonstrates the high accuracy, reliability and reproducibility of this blood test, as it was successfully validated in two independent large datasets from Japan and Australia.”
This study was published in the journal Nature on January 31, 2018.