Blood Test Shows Remarkable Accuracy in Predicting Alzheimer’s Disease

Scientists have developed a blood test that can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with incredible accuracy, according to a study released in Nature Medicine. The test searches for a set of 10 fatty molecules in the blood that researchers believe to be linked to the disease. “This is a potential game-changer,” stated senior author and Georgetown University Medical Center neurologist Dr. Howard Federoff. “My level of enthusiasm is very high.”

According to the study, researchers took blood from hundreds of individuals over the age of 70 years. After a period of five years, 28 of the participants developed Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive impairment that typically precedes the disease, and researchers were able to narrow down the common lipids, or fatty molecules, that set them apart from participants with normal health. After taking blood samples from additional people with Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive problems, researchers confirmed that the blood test was 90 percent accurate in predicting who would get Alzheimer’s within a two to three year period.

Although there are numerous tests that can detect signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia, such as spinal taps and MRI scans, such tests can be painful, time consuming, and expensive, reports NPR. However, “the principle difference is we actually looked at individuals without symptoms, tracking them to see if they developed the disease,” Federoff said. “No other study has done this.”

The “beauty of the test,” said lead author and University of Rochester Medical Center neuropsychologist Mark Mapstone, was that it identified Alzheimer’s disease in patients before they even had symptoms, which suggests that the course of the disease begins before there are any signs of memory loss, reported CNN. “If you talk to anyone who’s involved in developing drugs for Alzheimer’s disease, they’ll say you have to treat somebody before the dementia even begins,” stated ABC News’ chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. “This gives hope for being able to identify those people who are going to develop dementia.”

Although the blood test is years away from use in doctors’ offices, it raises the question: who would want to know if they were getting the disease? “I think it’s a very personal decision,” stated Federoff. “It would have to be thought through on multiple dimensions. Patients and their families would have to be counseled.”