Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that causes dementia. It has no cure, and although symptoms develop over years, there is little doctors can do to stop the progression once the disease has started. However catching Alzheimer’s early before incapacitating symptoms take over may allow treatment to considerably slow the progress of disease.
European-based scientists may have come up with a blood test capable of identifying Alzheimer’s years earlier. Their research was recently published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, an academic journal published by the European Molecular Biology Organization.
As many as 15 to 20 years before Alzheimer’s triggers dementia symptoms, it begins making structural changes to the brain. Plaques made up of a substance known as amyloid beta form in the brain, but the only way to spot the plaques requires expensive brain scans or invasive testing, this only happens once a patient has severe symptoms.
Klaus Gerwert, PhD and a team of scientists were able to differentiate between normal amyloid beta in the bloodstream and the misfolded amyloid beta that forms brain plaque, in the new study.
Dr. Gerwert first tried the blood test on people with mild symptoms. He reported in a press release, that the test could reliably identify the plaque in people whose brain scans revealed brain plaque. Next, Dr. Gerwert tested 65 archived blood samples of people who, years later, went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. To help check the accuracy of the test, he also screened blood samples from 809 healthy adults. The blood test properly identified people with the disease more than 70 percent of the time, and it could do so up to eight years before a patient’s diagnosis.
Before the test can be rolled out to a doctor near you, it will have to undergo larger scale testing, according to Dr. Gerwert. This research will also be used to test an early blood test for Parkinson ’s disease.