Promising research shows a mere blood test can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. It is possible to find the disease even decades before it shows any symptoms.
Researchers found a protein that is involved in the process of brain cell damage that builds up in the blood of patients 20 years before their memory recedes.
Typically in the brain of an Alzheimer patient, P-tau217 abnormally clumps together, and consequently, a few tiny parts leak through into the bloodstream.
A blood test found my researchers however is about 98 percent accurate at measuring the levels of protein in people and thus diagnosing whether or not the patient has the harrowing disease.
This disease sadly has no guaranteed cure but with the current progress with this blood test, people may be able to partake in trials early to help researchers find a possible treatment.
This blood test may also soon come in handy as a screening method to find those at risk. Currently, doctors use such a technique to find if people have high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Experts believe this technique could be used by General physicians as soon as 5 years after the test is fully developed.
The news however hasn’t garnered full support as some people warn there could be a huge ethical concern in revealing such sensitive information to people who will be devastated to hear of their losing memory.
In the UK alone about 850,000 people suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type found in about two-thirds of the total number of patients.
The brains of those suffering from the disease have knots of proteins in the brain created by tau proteins. The protein amyloid-beta also causes plaques to form in their brains.
These proteins, amyloid-beta, and tau begin to accumulate before any symptoms arise such as confusion and memory loss.
As for now, however, the disease can only be detected when a person begins to exhibit symptoms in an expensive brain scan or a spinal tap. This method involves extracting fluids from the spine to measure the fluctuating levels of the protein in the brain.
GPs in Britain these days use pen and paper memory tests to check if a patient’s decline in cognition matches that of the score for Alzheimer’s disease.
Developing a blood test for the disease has been in the works by different researchers for years.
People who were detected to have the disease were able to begin treatment in the early stages or be enrolled in drug trials in the early stages of the disease. This is done to see if the drugs are likely to be more effective before the brain is drastically damaged. It Is a hope that such patients might show development if their disease is caught early.
It is important to remember however that this life-changing disease currently has no cure or treatment to help someone who suffers from it.
The research was performed by an international team from the US and Sweden, it consisted of two studies which were shown at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
The study focused on a sub-group of the protein tau, called p-tau217.
The research taking place in the US discovered that p-tau217 builds up in the cerebrospinal fluid, which is a transparent, colorless fluid found in the spinal cord and brain of those suffering from the disease right before they show cognitive symptoms.
The levels rise as the disease progresses and can predict with accuracy the formation of amyloid plaques found in brain scans of patients.
The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Regardless of the potential barriers that await this research ahead, Dr. Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK believes that a blood test to identify this disease can be a huge help for potential research for dementia. It could also lead to some breakthrough research for those struggling with dementia.