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A simple blood test could be all it takes to identify people in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, before symptoms are even present, according to a new study in the USA.
Alzheimer's disease is a major cause of dementia that destroys brain cells and tissue. As the brain damage spreads, it leads to symptoms such as confusion, memory loss, and diminishing the capacity to function. Eventually, the person can no longer lead an independent life. The results of the study, published in Journal Neurology, showcase a potential breakthrough in the fight against the disease.
“Right now, we screen people for clinical trials with brain scans, which is time-consuming and expensive, and enrolling participants takes years,” said Senior Author Randall Bateman, a leading professor of neurology.
“But with a blood test, we could potentially screen thousands of people a month. That means we can more efficiently enrol participants in clinical trials, which will help us find treatments faster, and could have an enormous impact on the cost of the disease as well as the human suffering that goes with it.”
The research suggests the disease could be detected up to 16 years before symptoms start to arise in the patient. The blood test can identify, with 94% accuracy, the damaging clumps of protein that build up in the brain decades before any damage is done.
The general consensus among neurologists is that Alzheimer’s treatment should begin as early as possible. Being able to detect it at such a preliminary stage gives scientists the chance to help find a cure for the disease.
However, before the test can be put to practical use, researchers will need to determine how much of the protein in the blood should be considered abnormal, and how fast it can rise before becoming a cause for concern.
If you’re interested in taking on the challenges that the world of biomedical sciences presents, why not look into our Clinical and Biomedical Science degrees at the University of Bolton.