New blood test could predict the risk of Alzheimer's disease before symptoms

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At the moment there is no specific test today that can confirm whether someone will develop Alzheimer's disease, but a new blood test could soon change that.

There is a genetic test for APOE-e4, the gene mutation for Alzheimer's, but it only indicates a greater risk, not whether a person will develop Alzheimer's or whether a person has Alzheimer's, and there is also a test for genes that cause autosomal dominant Alzheimer's disease (ADAD) or familial Alzheimer's.

Now according to a paper published in Nature Medicine, it may soon be possible to predict - with 90% accuracy - who will develop Alzheimer's disease at least 2 to 3 years before the start of the symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease causes a progressive dementia. It affects more than 35 million individuals worldwide and is expected to affect 115 million by 2050.

According to researchers at Georgetown University they were able to identify 10 fats - cell membrane lipids - in the blood of people who later went on to develop Alzheimer's.

To develop the test, researchers took blood samples from 525 people over the age of 70, monitoring them over a period of five years.

At the start of the study, 46 were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease, with 28 going from a normal cognitive function to an impaired memory status during the period.

Among those who developed the cognitive impairment or Alzeheimer’s, the researchers discovered a marked difference in the levels of those ten fats compared to those who did not develop the disease.

"The test was accurate about 90% of the time in distinguishing people with healthy brains from those with the fatal disease," said Howard Federoff, a professor of neurology and executive vice president for health sciences, who led the work.

"I think there is a huge need for a test," however the researchers cautioned that they "must look at larger numbers of people before this could be used in clinical practice."

An early warning test for the biomarkers of Alzheimer's could transform medical research, treatment, drugs and cost care.

Prof Federoff said, “Our novel blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk for progressive cognitive decline and can change how patients, their families and treating physicians plan for and manage the disorder.”

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