A New Blood Test Could Predict the Onset of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer's is a devastating neurological disease that results in the loss of memory and other mental functions. While the cause is currently unknown, scientists believe that the formation of beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles contribute to neuronal death in the brain.
Amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles can begin forming in a patient’s bloodstream 30 years before the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms. Unfortunately, most attempts at identifying these proteins in blood plasma are futile. This is because reliable tests, those involving brain scans and spinal fluid extractions, can often be painful and costly procedures.
However, a team of Australian and Japanese researchers has recently developed a new and inexpensive blood test which could predict if a person will develop Alzheimer’s. Koichi Tanaka, one of the researchers, stated that “from a tiny blood sample, our method can measure several amyloid-related proteins, even though their concentration is [normally] extremely low.”
The team utilized immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry to search for amyloid-β biomarkers in blood plasma. By measuring the amount of precursor proteins for amyloid-β, they were able to predict Alzheimer’s with 90% accuracy.
Although further trials are still required, Professor Colin Masters, one of the team leads, is thrilled at the outlook: “I can see in the future, five years from now, where people have a regular checkup every five years after age 55 or 60 to determine whether they are on the Alzheimer’s pathway or not.”
Since symptoms of Alzheimer’s emerge in the late stages, it is often difficult to monitor the disease’s progression. Scientists now will be able to identify early plaque formation and develop drugs effective at clearing further buildup.
Most importantly, individuals who know they’re at risk of developing Alzheimer’s could preemptively make the appropriate lifestyle changes and financial preparations. This new test provides a valuable, thirty-year head start in the fight against Alzheimer’s.