A new blood test may be able to identify early signs of Alzheimer’s. The test was developed to detect high-amounts of the amyloid beta protein, which are the main component of amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. According to the study, published in the journal Nature, the blood test was able to detect the protein with 90 percent accuracy.
A team of scientists from Australia and Japan performed the test on 121 patients from Japan and 252 patients from Australia. All of the participants had varying levels of health, ranging from healthy to mild cognitive impairments to Alzheimer’s disease.
The amyloid beta protein can surface in the brain decades before any notable Alzheimer’s symptoms appear. Currently, scientists can detect amyloid protein either by brain scan or spinal tap.
“This test is at least as good as current brain scan techniques and far surpasses existing blood tests,” said Colin Masters, lead author of the study and professor of dementia research at Melbourne’s Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.
The new results build on a similar 2017 study conducted by a different team of scientists, where their test was reported to have 86 percent accuracy.
However, the researchers of this study cautioned that the test was still a way off from practical clinical use.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society UK, there is no definitive test to identify the symptoms of dementia, as patients with cognitive impairment are diagnosed after numerous brain scans and mental testing.
The scientists were able to detect levels of the amyloid protein by using blood samples from the patients, predicting how much of the toxic protein is in the brain.
The non-invasive procedure, if proven effective on a wider test group, can cut Alzheimer’s treatment costs drastically. Researchers believe that early detection of the disease can also alleviate the symptoms and allow Alzheimer’s patients to live a more functional life in the future.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 5 million people in the US suffer from the disease. More so, the associated cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients was approximately $259 billion in 2017. The UK has over 520 thousand people affected by the disease, costing £26.3 billion, according to the organization.
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