Breakthrough blood test for Alzheimer's cure
- 08 Jul
A blood test used to detect which people with failing memories will go on to develop Alzheimer's disease has been developed.
An international collaboration led by scientists from King's College London and Proteome Sciences has published a study identifying a set of ten proteins in the blood. This test will then predict the onset of Alzheimer's in the next twelve months in people with memory problems with 87% accuracy, reports the Guardian.
David Cameron recently announced a drive to discover new drugs for dementia, which he said "stands alongside cancer as one of the greatest enemies of humanity".
This new test is aimed at people with memory loss called mild cognitive impairment, 60% of whom will go on to develop dementia. These are the type of people scientists wish to recruit into trials to prevent or at least delay the onset of Alzheimer's.
"Alzheimer's begins to affect the brain many years before patients are diagnosed with the disease," said Professor Simon Lovestone from King's College. "Many of our drug trials fail because by the time patients are given the drugs, the brain has already been too severely affected. A simple blood test could help us identify patients at a much earlier stage to take part in new trials and hopefully develop treatments which could prevent the progression of the disease."
The researchers investigated 26 proteins which have all been linked to Alzheimer's in the past. Writing in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, they say they took blood samples from 1,148 individuals, of whom 476 had Alzheimer's disease, 220 had mild cognitive impairment and 452 were elderly but without dementia.
"The next step will be to validate our findings in further sample sets, to see if we can improve accuracy and reduce the risk of misdiagnosis, and to develop a reliable test suitable to be used by doctors," said Lovestone.
Dr Eric Karran, science director at the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, which helped fund the research, said a test identifying those at risk of Alzheimer's at an early stage would be of "real value", but warned that it would have to be used responsibly. "Alzheimer's disease is now the most feared diagnosis. We have to be very careful about how we use these tests, especially in the absence of effective therapy."
Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Finding a way to detect dementia before symptoms develop would revolutionise research into the condition. However, this research does not mean that a blood test for dementia is just around the corner. These 10 proteins can predict conversion to dementia with less than 90% accuracy, meaning one in 10 people would get an incorrect result. Therefore, accuracy would need to be improved before it could be a useful diagnostic test. Only through further research will we find answers to the biggest questions around dementia, so we will watch the progress of this study with interest."
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