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Blood test for Alzheimer’s shows 100 percent accuracy in early trials

Blood test for Alzheimer’s sho...
A reliable blood test for Alzheimer’s may one day become a vital tool for early diagnosis
A reliable blood test for Alzheimer’s may one day become a vital tool for early diagnosis
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A reliable blood test for Alzheimer’s may one day become a vital tool for early diagnosis
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A reliable blood test for Alzheimer’s may one day become a vital tool for early diagnosis

Alzheimer's can be quite a stealthy foe, at times causing damage in a sufferer long before any symptoms start to show. Naturally, this makes it tricky to detect early on, which is problematic because treatment options only narrow as the disease progresses. But researchers may have now uncovered what could become a hugely valuable diagnostics tool, developing a blood test capable of picking up early stage Alzheimer's with "unparalleled accuracy."

"It is now generally believed that Alzheimer's-related changes begin in the brain at least a decade before the emergence of telltale symptoms," says Dr. Robert Nagele, from Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first blood test using autoantibody biomarkers that can accurately detect Alzheimer's at an early point in the course of the disease when treatments are more likely to be beneficial – that is, before too much brain devastation has occurred."

Studies have shown how the disease wreaks havoc in its formative stages, destroying brain cell connections that later leads to common symptoms like memory loss and confusion. Researchers are working toward methods that would enable earlier detection of the disease, with non-invasive MRIs and biosensors approaches that have shown real potential in recent times.

And blood tests are a particularly promising avenue to early diagnosis. In 2014, a team of international scientists identified a set of biomarkers that could predict with 87 percent accuracy whether a person with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) would progress to Alzheimer's disease within a year. While MCI can be a sign of early Alzheimer's, it can also arise from a number of other health conditions, so an ability to tell the difference could mean big things when it comes to managing the disease.

"About 60 percent of all MCI patients have MCI caused by an early stage of Alzheimer's disease. The remaining 40 percent of cases are caused by other factors, including vascular issues, drug side-effects and depression," says Cassandra DeMarshall, PhD candidate at Rowan University. "To provide proper care, physicians need to know which cases of MCI are due to early Alzheimer's and which are not."

Led by Nagele, the Rowan University team took blood samples from 236 patients, 50 of which had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's due to the low-level presence of amyloid-beta 42 peptide in their cerebrospinal fluid. These are the peptides that gather in clusters and go on to form amyloid plaques in the brain, which are considered the culprits behind the debilitating disease.

Also among the participants was a control group of 50, along with 50 subjects with MCI, 50 with Parkinson's, 25 with multiple sclerosis and 11 with breast cancer. The blood samples were screened with human protein microarrays, each with 9,486 unique proteins, as a way of drawing out autoantibodies that were indicative of the different diseases.

The researchers identified the top 50 autoantibody biomarkers that were capable of detecting early-stage Alzheimer's. Across a number of tests, this set of biomarkers could distinguish between MCI sufferers with and without Alzheimer's with 100 percent precision. The test could also tell the difference between the early Alzheimer's and more advanced with 98.7 percent accuracy, early Parkinson's (98 percent) and both multiple sclerosis and breast cancer (100 percent).

"Our results show that it is possible to use a small number of blood-borne autoantibodies to accurately diagnose early-stage Alzheimer's," says DeMarshall. "These findings could eventually lead to the development of a simple, inexpensive and relatively noninvasive way to diagnose this devastating disease in its earliest stages."

The researchers are now setting their sights on reproducing these promising results in a larger study. And if they are successful, it raises the possibility of a reliable way to pick up the disease early on, which could help preserve the quality of life for sufferers through less drastic treatment regimes.

The research was published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.

Source: Rowan University

11 comments
VivianAaron
I have 3 generations of women with Alzheimer's in my family, but, as a strict raw Vegan feel that this has more to do with their diet since all 3 would have diets loaded with sugars, white flour, little exercise, over- weight. Still its in my genes so would a test study done with Vegans or has such a test been done, if so I would very much appreciate knowing this information, & may very well consider being part of the studies themselves. Vivian
RangerJones
Nothing about a vegan lifestyle has any grand empirically proven result over any extended period of time excepting a possibly cleaner colon--Maybe. With distinct genetic history I would certainly get the test if at an age of concept.
Vincent M Tedone MD
The question is what produced the auto antibodies? 90% of amyloid plaques culture out bacteria. 80 % are treponema denticola an oral pathogen. Others are Borrelia. So why don't we culture the oral cavity to see if a pathogen is present then we can treat it.
MalcolmJohnson
Considering reports show early onset as showing symptoms as much as 10 years earlier and the current age range for early onset is 40-50, at what age are they recommending doing these tests. What age were these test individuals? Because this is the first of its kind are individuals going to be charged an exorbitant amount for this testing? I sincerely hope not! The idea of having this illness is devastating enough without having to decide, Can I afford the testing?.
rpark
...let me (cynically) guess, the test won't be available for 10 years or more.
StevenSummers
Great stuff...so they know you do or don't have Alzheimers...so then what?
charlieFreak
Surely the key information is Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine... seems hardly plausible that such an institution would develop a test as revolutionary as this sounds. It's also not a very scientific presentation: "100% accurate" - sensitivity and specificity would be much more valuable.
Wombat56
@VivianAaron — Considering your family history, you might want to do some research on turmeric/curcumin. The phytosome extract-version is supposedly much better absorbed, and Curcumin's toxicity is low. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12676044 — review of safety in publications.
yawood
@VivianAaron. It is very hit and miss. I too have three generations of Alzheimer's in the family (well, dementia anyway, I don't think there were any autopsies carried out). I am over 70 and offered my services to an Alzheimer's study but have recently been rejected after the battery of tests, including MRI etc, show that I have no indicators. By-the-way, I don't think that being a Vegan helps in any way and may even be detrimental to your overall health, but that's your choice.
Charlie_Horse
"diets loaded with sugars, white flour, little exercise, over- weight" - these factors all correlate highly with rapid progression of Alzheimers in susceptible people. But note, there is nothing to prevent you as a vegan from consuming lots of sugar and white flour! I have one vegan friend who consumes too many vegan sweets, always prefers a bus to walking, and is overweight. But compared to his pictures of when he was a carnivore, he has clearly lost weight. The other vegans I know are almost all super athletes with incredible stamina and enviable power/weight ratio. Just by being a vegan, you are already in the class of "diet aware" people, which gives you a big statistical advantage whatever your genetic susceptibility may be. Keep up the good living!