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New Blood Test Can Spot Person's Risk of Developing Dementia Years Before Symptoms Start

Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia are seated inside the Alzheimer Foundation in Mexico City.
Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia are seated inside the Alzheimer Foundation in Mexico City. |

A new blood test that can predict a person's risk of Alzheimer's disease years before symptoms start is at the initial stage of testing. The revolutionary procedure developed by Washington University School of Medicine could be used to spot which patients are at risk.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and is believed to start up to 10 years or so before symptoms become noticeable. People with Alzheimer's initially lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. The memory loss worsens and can disrupt daily life.

Physicians haven't determined the exact cause of Alzheimer's but have identified amyloid beta alongside tau protein as a potential trigger. As the brain engages in daily tasks, it continually produces and clears away amyloid beta. Some are washed into the blood, while others float in the cerebrospinal fluid.

Decades before Alzheimer's strikes, the victim's brain becomes dotted with sticky amyloid beta plaque. This happens when tau protein starts to build up and collects into plaques that stick to neurons. Sticky amyloid plaques prevent neurons from communicating, causing permanent damage.

Currently, the only way to detect amyloid beta is through costly procedures like an invasive spinal tap or positron emission tomography (PET) scans. But medical scientists are looking into a quick and affordable test that measures the levels of toxic protein in the blood.

Trials had been done on 41 volunteers over the age of 60 with an accuracy rate of 89 percent. The results, which were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2017 in London, can be a basis for an inexpensive and non-invasive screening for people at risk of developing the disease.

Another research on the blood test to predict Alzheimer's is jointly being conducted by Kings College London and the Medical Research Council. The British scientists found that sufferers experienced a lower level of a protein called MAPKAPK5 in the blood prior to developing Mild Cognitive Impairment, a disorder which often leads to dementia.

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