The onset of early Alzheimer’s disease might be predicted with certain blood tests that are now in the early stages of development. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the creation of such tests could be a “massive step forward” in the battle against the illness.
The blood samples studied could show Alzheimer’s disease three years in advance with 90 percent accuracy. Scientists at Georgetown University and the University of Rochester teamed up to examine blood samples from 525 people. The participants were the age of 70 and over. The study lasted for five years, with each individual being in good physical condition.
Seventy-four of the volunteers began to show signs of mild cognitive impairment over the course of the five year experiment. The researchers analyzed the blood samples in hopes of finding a pattern that would show the beginning of Alzheimer’s. They found what they were looking for in the form of 10 fat-like compounds known as lipids. These molecules changed when the individual started to develop memory loss.
If Alzheimer’s disease could be predicted by blood tests, a more advanced dementia treatment could likely be created and administered to the patient. One in three people will develop the illness of the span of their lifetime. Currently, 44 million people live with dementia across the globe. The disease damages the brain, speech, understanding and judgment. Victims are left dependent on other as the illness gets worse over time.
Professor of Neurology at Georgetown University Howard Federoff encourages the findings of preventative measures. He believes creating a way to slow down the disease will have a huge impact. “Even a short delay of symptoms will have a tremendous economic benefit just in terms of the cost of care,” he said.
So far, the blood tests have been encouraging, and the samples could be used in major clinical testing soon. “If confirmed, these results could also aid efforts to develop better tools for diagnosing Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Simon Ridley from the Alzheimer’s Research UK said. “Allowing people with the disease to access crucial support and existing treatments sooner.”
The finding are published in Nature Medicine. In order to confirm results, researchers plan to work on bigger studies involving larger groups of people. They are also working on ways to predict Alzheimer’s disease earlier than two to three years like the first test did.
Alzheimer’s affects more than 5 million Americans. This number is expected to rise in the next 35 years by 13 million. More than 500,000 Americans pass away from the disease every year. Some studies associate the illness with a gene mutation that affects cholesterol – specifically APOE4.
Predicting Alzheimer’s disease with a simple blood test is a great step in the right direction. However, the illness is incurable, meaning an effective treatment has yet to be found. If the blood testing proves to be successful, patients will have the choice of whether or not they want to know if they carry Alzheimer’s. “There is so much we don’t understand,” Heather Snyder from the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association said. “And one is what are those earliest changes and why.”
By April Littleton