A study explained in the April issue of Nature Medicine shows how a blood test can give Alzheimer’s new hopes. Scientists who carried out the research state that the test, which reportedly predicts the disease, has a 90 percent accuracy and could change the way patients react to treatment. Although no cure has been discovered for Alzheimer’s, experts believe that, thanks to the blood test’s effectiveness, treatment could slow or reverse the disease’s progression. The discovery gives scientists a new reason to search for earlier treatment options, since all the drugs developed so far have failed.
Nowadays, the only way to predict this disease is done through expensive, risky and often unreliable methods like PET scans and spinal taps, but a blood test could give Alzheimer’s new hopes. Doctor Howard Federoff, neurologist at Georgetown University Medical Center and senior author of the report stated that he is very enthusiastic about the findings and hinted that blood tests represent “a potential game-changer.”
The group of experts took blood from hundreds of healthy people who were at least 70 years old and lived in Irvine, California and Rochester, New York and, after five years, 28 of the people who participated in the study had developed either Alzheimer’s or symptoms that precede the disease. The detail which allowed scientists to find a method to predict the disease was the number of fats which made the difference between the healthy and ill, namely that the 28 people had low levels of ten certain lipids.
What Does This Mean?
Although experts are certain that the blood test gives Alzheimer’s new hopes, people are wondering what this means. Mark Mapstone, neuropsychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center stated that the test can detect the disease long before the symptoms start to appear, which means that the disease begins to affect the human body before the memory starts to fall apart.
Future tests will be made on people in their 40s and 50s in order to determine the implications of the discovery, but Federoff mentions that the decision to take the test is “a very personal decision.” Even if the biomarker test is far from being commercialized, because it is still in its initial phase, it could become a reality.
Doctor Doug Brown, director of research and development at Great Britain’s Alzheimer’s Society shares Federoff’s opinion with regard to the ethical implications and states that, before taking the test, people should be aware of the implications.
The discovery was validated not only by researchers at Georgetown, but also at six other institutions, which also found out that a set of ten lipid biomarkers in the blood can predict both Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment. The findings are even more precious as the World Health Organization announced that the deadly disease is expected to double over 20 years at international level, which means that, by 2050 there could be 115.4 million people suffering from this illness.
Irrespective of the bleak future sketched by the World Health Organization, the blood test discovered and validated by experts at Georgetown could give Alzheimer’s new hopes. The discovery is still in its initial phase, but experts are optimistic about the test’s results.
By Gabriela Motroc