A simple blood test may hold the key to an early dementia diagnosis, according to new research pioneered by Australian and Japanese scientists.
In a world first, the test is expected to make an accurate diagnosis up to 30 years before symptoms appear.
Published in the journal Nature, the research was 90 per cent accurate when trialled on healthy people, those with memory loss and people living with Alzheimer’s disease.
The test works by detecting a specific protein in a person’s blood – essentially a biomarker for the protein amyloid beta.
Amyloid protein plaques are found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, so if a precursor could found before the plaques develop, it may delay the onset of symptoms.
The research was co-authored by Professor Colin Masters from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.
“We can finally say we have a high-performing blood test [for Alzheimer’s disease], which from my point of view is a major achievement,” he said.
“Most people probably wouldn’t want to have this test unless there’s a specific therapy, but many others would take the view that they want to plan ahead by five or 10 years,” Professor Masters said.
“If the test is negative, there’s a 95 per cent chance that you’re not going to develop Alzheimer’s within the foreseeable future — that means within 10 or 15 years.”
“Always in this type of medical science research, it’s always good to have a diagnosis first and then a treatment follows,” he said.
“Once you can diagnose the condition accurately and specifically, then it makes it so much easier to work on developing a specific therapy.”
Developing a blood test has a number of benefits, it simplifies a process that can be challenging to navigate with invasive tests.
A blood test is a non-invasive technique, when compared to some of the brain scans and other methods used to detect protein buildup in the brain.
This breakthrough, could also help in creating treatment options and delaying the onset of symptoms. It’s been suggested that it was help with the progress of clinical drug trials.
“Some of these studies could be markedly improved from a cost and efficiency basis if we could preselect people going into clinical trials through blood test,” Professor Masters said.
Professor Masters explained that the research is still in the early stages, but with proper research and validation, this become part of a routine blood test for people over 50 years old with further.
Professor Masters also believe that this test may eventually be used to predict how fast patients will deteriorate and monitor the effectiveness of future treatments.
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