News / Health

Study Paves the Way for a Blood Test to Predict Alzheimer's

FILE - A researcher holds a human brain in a laboratory.
FILE - A researcher holds a human brain in a laboratory.
Reuters

British scientists have identified a set of 10 proteins in the blood that can predict the onset of Alzheimer's and call this an important step towards developing a test for the incurable brain-wasting disease.

Such a test could initially be used to select patients for clinical trials of experimental treatments being developed to try to halt progression of Alzheimer's, the researchers said, and may one day move into routine use in doctors' clinics.

“Alzheimer's begins to affect the brain many years before patients are diagnosed [and] many of our drug trials fail because by the time patients are given the drugs the brain has already been too severely affected,” said Simon Lovestone of Oxford University, who led the work from King's College London.

“A simple blood test could help us identify patients at a much earlier stage to take part in new trials and hopefully develop treatments,” he said.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a  disease which in 2010 was estimated to be costing the world $604 billion a year. The fatal disease affects 44 million people worldwide, with the number set to triple by 2050, the campaign group Alzheimer's Disease International says.

Several big pharma firms including Roche, Eli Lilly, Merck & Co and Johnson & Johnson, are pursuing various approaches to get to the root cause of Alzheimer's and try to find treatments to halt its progression.

Yet over the past 15 years, more than 100 experimental Alzheimer's drugs have failed in trial. Lovestone and other experts believe this may be because drug trials are conducted too late, in patients whose condition has already gone too far.

A predictive test for use before people develop symptoms would help researchers select the right people for drug trials, and help show whether the experimental drugs are working.

Search for Alternative Test

Previous studies have found that PET brain scans and tests of lumbar fluid can be used to predict the onset of dementia from people with a less severe condition known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI), but these tests are expensive and invasive, so scientists are keen to develop a cheaper, simpler blood test.

MCI includes problems with day-to-day memory, language and attention. It can be an early sign of dementia, or a symptom of stress or anxiety.

Around 10 percent of people diagnosed with MCI develop dementia within a year. Apart from regular assessments to measure memory decline, there is currently no accurate way of predicting who will or won't develop dementia.

For this study, published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, Lovestone's team used blood samples from 1,148 people - 476 with Alzheimer's, 220 with mild cognitive impairment and 452 elderly controls without dementia. They were analyzed for 26 proteins previously found to be linked with Alzheimer's.

The team found 16 of these 26 proteins to be strongly associated with brain shrinkage in either MCI or Alzheimer's and then ran a second series of tests to see which of these could predict which patients would progress from MCI to Alzheimer's.

With this second series, they found a combination of 10 proteins capable of predicting with 87 percent accuracy whether people with MCI would develop Alzheimer's disease within a year.

Experts in the field welcomed the results but said they should be replicated in larger studies before an Alzheimer's blood test could be rolled out for use in doctors' clinics.

“The results reported today are interesting, but as the authors point out there is still a very large amount of work remaining until a usable blood test for Alzheimer's disease becomes available,” said Adrian Pini of the MRC Center for Developmental Neurobiology at King's College London.

James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said the research “does not mean that a blood test for dementia is just around the corner.”

“These 10 proteins can predict conversion to dementia with less than 90 percent accuracy, meaning one in 10 people would get an incorrect result,” he said. “Accuracy would need to be improved before it could be a useful diagnostic test.”

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid