Alzheimer’s Disease - New Blood Test May Help Pinpoint Early Symptoms

Scientific researchers are constantly searching for procedures to pinpoint the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease because it is believed that detrimental changes in the brain occur long before symptoms are noticeable. Through the National institutes of Health, new data reveals that a blood test is able to measure the amount of beta-amyloid protein in the brains of normal functioning older persons. This is good news because the blood test findings would help screen suitable candidates for acting as subjects in future clinical trials.

The study was led by Dr. Madhav Thambisetty of the National Institute of Aging with participating partners from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London and the Department of Radiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The findings will be published in the Journal Of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Recent advances in imaging and biomarkers that help track the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease show promise for early detection of the disease process, and for tracking the effectiveness of early interventions,” said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. “This is critically important in streamlining and conducting trials more efficiently so that we can find out about possible therapies that much sooner.”

The study revealed that the levels of a certain protein called apolipoprotein E, shortened to ApoE, in the blood was correlated with the amount of beta amyloid in the brain. The higher blood levels, the larger amounts in the medial temporal lobe, the section of the brain vital to memory.

“These results are especially intriguing as this protein is made by the APOE gene, the most robust genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s,” Thambisetty said. Late-onset Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the disease and occurs around age 65 or later.

Future plans are to measure these findings in serial blood samples taken annually in subjects from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging to see how fluctuating blood levels of ApoE relate to brain function.

“If the results are equally positive, we may be able to develop a blood test that provides a less invasive, inexpensive method that helps to detect the early pathological changes of Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

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