Simple, Inexpensive Blood Test Detects Alzheimer’s Years Before Symptoms Occur

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. It is often argued that progress in drug research has been hampered by the fact that the disease can only be diagnosed when it is too late for an effective intervention. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to begin long before patients show typical symptoms like memory loss. Scientists have now developed a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease and found that it can detect early indicators of the disease long before the first symptoms appear in patients. The blood test would thus offer an opportunity to identify those at risk and may thereby open the door to new avenues in drug discovery. The research was published online on April 6, 2018 in EMBO Molecular Medicine. The open-access article is titled “Amyloid Blood Biomarker Detects Alzheimer's Disease.” One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is the accumulation of amyloid-β plaques in the patient’s brain. The blood test, developed by Dr. Klaus Gerwert and his team at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, works by measuring the relative amounts of a pathological and a healthy form of amyloid-β in the blood. The pathological form is a misfolded version of this molecule and known to initiate the formation of toxic plaques in the brain. Toxic amyloid-β molecules start accumulating in the patients’ body 15-20 years before disease onset. In the present study, Dr. Gerwert and colleagues from Germany and Sweden addressed whether the blood test would be able to pick up indications of pathological amyloid-β in very early phases of the disease. The researchers first focused on patients in the early, so-called “prodromal” stages of the disease from the Swedish BioFINDER cohort conducted by Dr. Oskar Hanson.
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