Scientists claim to be one step closer to developing a new blood test which could detect a person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease at least 10 years before its onset.
A team at Australia’s national science agency CSIRO have developed a screening technique was able to accurately detect harmful proteins that build up in the brain, causing memory loss and confusion in dementia sufferers.
If the findings are supported in larger trials, the test could offer a way to identify which people experiencing memory problems are at greatest risk of developing the disease, the researchers said.
Brain scans can be used to detect the sticky protein, known as beta amyloid, but are too expensive and impractical to be used for routine screening.
The new blood test, which measures for nine biological markers of the plaques, is the first to demonstrate a good level of accuracy when compared against brain scans and other established methods of testing for the disease, the Daily Mail reported.
In a study of over 1,100 people, the test performed well, researcher Dr Samantha Burnham told the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in France.
According to her, they first used blood samples from 273 people to identify nine hormones and proteins that appeared to predict of amyloid levels in the brain. A cut-off level was set for what was considered high.
“The belief is that people above that point will go on to get Alzheimer’s disease, and the lag is about 8 to 10 years,” Dr Burnham said.
When researchers used the nine-marker blood test on these same blood test, it correctly identified 83 per cent of people with high amyloid levels and correctly ruled out 85 per cent of people without this condition.
The test was then trialled successfully on nearly 900 more samples of blood.
CSIRO has patented the test and is talking with major companies about making it commercially available.
Dementia affects one in 20 people over the age of 65 and one in five over the age of 80. Worldwide there are an estimated 35.6 million people with this condition, and their number is expected to double within a generation.