Now just a simple blood test may predict the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. According to Georgetown University researchers in Washington D.C., a blood test that can predict if a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease or a related condition in a three-year time-frame.
Their study identified 10 lipids in the blood, with 90 percent accuracy, which could predict the onset of the disease. Their findings were published in a medical journal called Nature Medicine. But the results will be analyzed in bigger clinical trials. Scientists said the findings are required to be validated, but this test would be an actual step forward.
Georgetown University team analyzed 525 people’s blood samples from the age of 70 and older over a five-year research period. They compared samples of blood from 53 Alzheimer’s patients who developed Alzheimer’s or slight cognitive impairment with 53 patients who remained mentally agile.
Between the two groups, they discovered differences in the levels of ten lipids, or fats. When the study team observed the other blood samples, those ten markers of Alzheimer’s might predict who was likely to go into mental decay in the next years.
Howard J. Federoff, professor of neurology and executive vice president for health sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center, who headed the study, thinks that there is an enormous necessity for a test. But he also believes that a large number of people should be looked at before this could be applied in clinical trial.
There is no actual remedy or good treatment for Alzheimer’s disease that affects more than five million U.S. people and 35.6 million people around the globe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks Alzheimer’s as the sixth leading reason of death. But recent study lists it as the third biggest killer in America. The number of people affected are likely to almost treble by 2050 if there are no significant medical breakthroughs.
The disease silently attacks the brain for more than a decade before any symptoms appear. Doctors think drug trials are failing because patients are simply being treated too late to make a difference.
It is not evident exactly what causes the change in fats in the blood, but it could be a residue of the early changes in the brain. A successful test for Alzheimer’s might transform medical research and treatment drugs could be tested at a much earlier step in the disease.
Federoff highlights that his results will have to be validated in independent labs, and in much larger studies: “We also have to look at different age groups and a more diverse racial mix, and we need longer study periods.”
Dr. Doug Brown, director of the Alzheimer’s Society, said the test needed to be investigated further, but could create ethical challenges for doctors. “If this does develop in the future people must be given a choice about whether they would want to know, and fully understand the implications.”
Other researchers said that offering such a test would create an ethical dilemma for doctors. The full study on Alzheimer’s prediction will be revealed in the April issue of Nature Medicine.
By Rahad Abir