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Researchers On Verge of Blood Test For Alzheimer's Disease

An international team of scientists say they are on the verge of developing the first blood test for Alzheimer's disease which experts hope will help doctors identify patients with the memory-robbing disease in its earliest stages. Experts say the blood test identifies proteins that are unique to people with Alzheimer's and appear years before there are major symptoms. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

One of the early signs of Alzheimer's disease is forgetfulness. But it can be caused by a number of benign conditions, including aging itself.

The first place most families take their elderly relative for evaluation is not an expert neurologist, according to Todd Golde, a professor of neuroscience at the Mayor Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, but the family physician.

"And for those people, the diagnosis, and an accurate diagnosis, is a challenge," said Todd Golde. "And so I think that would bring a more uniform and consistent diagnosis to across a wider section of people receiving care for Alzheimer's."

Researchers in the United States, Germany and Sweden are working on a blood test, which they describe in the latest issue of of the journal, Nature Medicine.

Using computer analysis, investigators identified 18 proteins that the body uses to communicate with immune and nervous system cells. Researchers compared the proteins in healthy individuals to those with advanced Alzheimer's.

The test was 90 percent accurate in diagnosing the disease in its early stages.

Tony Wyss-Coray, professor of medicine at Stanford University and the report's senior author, says more research is needed to confirm the study's findings. But he believes a blood test may soon be available that could help doctors make a complex diagnosis.

"This might be feasible in a relatively short period of time to have actually a blood test that can at least help in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease and may even be able predict whether a person will develop it if they have memory complaints right now," said Tony Wyss-Coray.

Experts say such information would mean patients would be able to begin early therapy to delay the decline of Alzheimer's, and help families prepare for the devastation of a progressive and fatal illness.

Wyss-Coray is scientific advisor of Satoris Group in San Francisco, California which he founded to develop and market an Alzheimer's test kit, when one becomes reliable. Todd Golde of the Mayo Clinic is an advisor to Satoris and has a financial interest in the company.