New Blood Test Can Detect “Toxic” Protein Years Before Alzheimer’s Symptoms Emerge, Study Shows

Today, by and large, patients receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s only after they exhibit well-known signs of the disease, such as memory loss. By that point, the best treatment options simply slow further progression of symptoms. But research has shown that the seeds of Alzheimer’s are planted year--even decades--earlier, long before the cognitive impairments surface that make a diagnosis possible. Those seeds are amyloid beta proteins that misfold and clump together, forming small aggregates called oligomers. Over time, through a process scientists are still trying to understand, those “toxic” oligomers of amyloid beta are thought to develop into Alzheimer’s. A team led by researchers at the University of Washington (UW) has developed a laboratory test that can measure levels of amyloid beta oligomers in blood samples. As they report in a paper published the week of December 5, 2022 in PNAS, their test--known by the acronym SOBA--could detect oligomers in the blood of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but not in most members of a control group who showed no signs of cognitive impairment at the time the blood samples were taken. The PNAS article is titled “SOBA: Development and Testing of a Soluble Oligomer Binding Assay for Detection of Amyloidogenic Toxic Oligomers.”

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