Researchers have developed a new blood test that could make it easier to spot which patients are experiencing cognitive problems because of Alzheimer's disease.
The technique uses the body's own immune response system to determine if a patient has mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a sign of the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, with a higher level of accuracy than any other similar prototype test.
In a proof of concept study, more than 200 participants were asked to take the test and the researchers found there was 100 per cent accuracy in identifying which patients had MCI as a result of Alzheimer's disease. Blood samples were taken from 236 subjects, including 50 MCI subjects.
Cassandra DeMarshall, the study's lead author, and a PhD candidate at the Rowan University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, said around 60 per cent of people with MCI have it because of Alzheimer's disease. The other 40 per cent have these problems because of other factors, including vascular issues, drug side-effects and depression.
"To provide proper care, physicians need to know which cases of MCI are due to early Alzheimer's and which are not," Ms DeMarshall explained.
The study shows that it's possible to use a small number of autoantibodies in the blood to accurately diagnose early-stage Alzheimer's. Published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring it is hoped that these findings will lead to a simple, inexpensive and noninvasive test to identify the disease in its earliest stages.
Dr Robert Nagele from Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine and Durin Technologies, explained that it is now generally believed that Alzheimer's-related changes in the brain happen at least a decade before any tell-tale symptoms. Diagnosing Alzheimer's disease at this early stage means that treatment is more beneficial and limits the amount of damage done to the brain.
Dr Nagele is the study's corresponding author and director of the Biomarker Discovery Center at Rowan's New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging. He is also the co-founder and chief scientific officer of Durin Technologies.
The test is also able to distinguish early-stage Alzheimer's from later stages of the disease, as well as distinguishing it from other diseases like Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and early-stage breast cancer.
According to the researchers, diagnosing Alzheimer's at this stage means that patients could possibly delay the progression of the disease by making changes to their lifestyle and starting treatment sooner. It would also give doctors an easy way to measure the effectiveness of treatment by using the test.
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