A Blood Test for Alzheimer's


Today, there's no cure for Alzheimer's Disease, but there's hope that if people can be diagnosed years, maybe even decades before symptoms appear, we can stop or dramatically slow it down. A new test developed in Japan and Australia could bring us closer to that goal.

It's a blood test that was able to predict more than ninety percent of Alzheimer's cases among a group of three-hundred-seventy-three patients. Today people are diagnosed through a series of physical and mental tests, but only once symptoms have appeared.

The cause of Alzheimer's is unknown but its hallmarks are two abnormalities. One is the buildup of plaques which is a protein called beta-amyloid that accumulates around brain cells and blocks their communication. The other is the excess of tangles which result from a tau protein fiber. Both may be building up long before symptoms appear.

The new blood test works by binding to and concentrating portions of beta amyloid protein in the blood. Then it identifies and measures the amount of the protein using a highly sensitive and sophisticated lab technique called, I'll try to say this without mangling it: matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization'time of flight mass spectroscopy.

This study needs to be confirmed but if it works, imagine making it a part of your yearly physical. Patients could begin treatment right away which experts speculate can be much more effective than the advanced stage they're treated at now due to the late diagnosis.

Since Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and its risk doubles every five years after age sixty-five, that's a lot of baby boomers at risk and in need of a better diagnostic like this one.

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