Promising blood prick test for Alzheimer’s

Promising blood prick test for Alzheimer's

Blood Test for Alzheimer’s: A Promising Breakthrough

Alzheimer’s Blood Test

A definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease has traditionally relied on a series of complicated and expensive imaging scans to detect abnormal protein plaques and tangles in the brain. However, recent breakthroughs presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam offer a glimmer of hope for a simpler, more accessible, and cost-effective diagnostic tool – a finger prick blood test.

The finger prick blood test, though still a work in progress, has shown promising initial results. In a study conducted by lead scientist Hanna Huber and her colleagues at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, key Alzheimer’s-related biomarkers were detected in dried blood samples drawn from a finger prick. These biomarkers include markers of amyloid and tau pathology, neurodegeneration, and glial (brain cell) activity. According to Huber, the levels of these markers found in the dried blood samples were comparable to those derived from standard blood analysis using regular blood collection methods.

One of the key advantages of this finger prick test is its simplicity and ease of use. The required sample volume is less than that of standard reference methods, and the dried blood spot sampling eliminates the need for centrifuges or freezers for sample processing and storage. Once perfected, the test could be administered by individuals themselves, or by doctors in rural areas or smaller hospitals, who can then ship the sample to a facility equipped with the necessary technology for marker detection.

This study, along with two other noteworthy research efforts presented at the conference, highlights the potential future where Alzheimer’s can be more easily detected, tracked, and treated. According to Percy Griffin, the director of scientific engagement for the Alzheimer’s Association, there is an urgent need for simple, inexpensive, minimally invasive, and accessible diagnostic tools for Alzheimer’s. A widely available, easy-to-use blood test for Alzheimer’s would be a remarkable advance in the field.

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by two types of proteins that behave abnormally in the brain. In the early stages, amyloid beta protein forms plaques, while tau proteins start to twist into tangles as the disease progresses and cognitive symptoms appear. Currently, the gold standard for detecting plaques or tangles in the brain is through imaging scans. However, these proteins shed fragments into the cerebrospinal fluid, which can eventually make their way into the bloodstream.

Researchers aim to efficiently and accurately detect these protein fragments to assess whether someone has Alzheimer’s or is at risk of developing the disease in the near future. The preservation of memory and cognitive functions heavily relies on early detection and timely intervention.

In a second study presented at the conference, scientists at Lund University in Sweden investigated the usefulness of blood-based Alzheimer’s biomarkers for diagnosing the disease in a primary care setting. Over 300 middle-aged to elderly patients at 17 primary care centers in Sweden underwent cognitive testing, brain imaging scans, and blood sample analysis. The results were promising, with the blood test correctly diagnosing Alzheimer’s or identifying the presence of Alzheimer’s-related brain changes in more than 85% of cases, compared to the primary care physicians’ accuracy rate of about 55%.

Another breakthrough in the detection of Alzheimer’s comes from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Lund University. They identified a specific form of tau in cerebrospinal fluid that accurately tracks the amount of tau tangles in the brain and correlates with the degree of mental decline. This form of tau, called MTBR-tau243, accurately detected Alzheimer’s and assessed the disease’s progression. The tau test currently requires a spinal tap for cerebrospinal fluid analysis, but researchers believe it could be translated into a blood test within the next few years.

While these advancements offer hope for improved diagnosis and treatment, it’s important to note that blood tests for Alzheimer’s are still in the early stages of development. Dr. Joel Salinas, a clinical assistant professor of neurology at NYU Langone Health, cautions against underestimating the complexities involved in translating the tau test to blood samples. Issues related to protein quantity and availability in the bloodstream compared to cerebrospinal fluid need to be addressed. However, the development of these tests is crucial, especially in light of recent FDA approvals for Alzheimer’s drugs targeting amyloid-beta that require confirmation of amyloid buildup and biomarker monitoring.

As we eagerly await further standardization and validation of these blood tests, it’s important to remember the potential impact they could have on early detection and improved access to treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. The day when a simple finger prick test could lead to timely intervention and a brighter future for Alzheimer’s patients may be within reach.