An Alzheimer’s blood test has been a goal for years.
Finding an easy way to diagnose the brain-robbing disease could be a game changer in helping manage Alzheimer’s.
Tuesday doctors announced an experimental blood test is highly accurate and that’s eliciting a great deal of hope in the field.
Precision is a word scarcely associated with new techniques for detection, especially when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Heather Snyder is vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.
“We urgently need a way, a simple and easy way, to detect the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s for an accurate for an accurate diagnosis,” she said.
And now there is news of a possible new tool.
After multiple clinical trials revealed sampling blood from a person could give clues Alzheimer’s disease is brewing and advancing.
“These new results allow us to not only detect one of the brain changes in Alzheimer’s, but actually different brain changes that are associated with Alzheimer’s more accurately,” Snyder said.
Dr. Marsel Mesulam is an Alzheimer’s disease expert at Northwestern University.
“These kinds of tests are very important. They are part of clinical decision making, patient treatment,” Mesulam said. “So if instead of doing PET scans and spinal taps – if we could do a blood test that is widely available, sensitive and specific, and that’s a major advances in the field for everyone.”
The blood test identifies two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease: amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
“What we have today is we have the ability to take a picture of the brain using PET imaging and see brain changes, the beta amyloid plaques or the tau tangles and individuals with Alzheimer’s disease,” Snyder said. “What several of these studies did was actually compare the results of the blood findings, there valuation of blood to those brain scans, and determine that they were able to accurately replicate those findings in those individuals.”
The researchers who presented their study results at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference to 24,000 scientists from 140 countries, went one step further confirming the blood test accuracy by examining brain samples from study participants who died. Again, there was a correlation and “a high replication of the outcome,” Snyder said.
With more than 5 million Americans living with the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, experts said this finding offers cautious optimism.
While there is no treatment for the disease, doctors, families and patients can plan better with an early indication of the future.
“What are most important reasons is the issue of prevention,” Mesulam said. “So we now know that the changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s disease start 10, maybe 20, years before any of the memory problems. … Prevention is a possibility. So if we have a blood test that will tell us the beginning of brain changes of Alzheimer’s disease before the person has any memory impairment, then instituting preventive measures would be possible. And that would be a major step forward.”
The next step is larger trials confirming these results. And for that, scientists will be looking for people to sign up for the blood test and other ongoing Alzheimer’s research.
More information at www.ALZ.org
Alzheimer’s help line: 1-800-272-3900