Blood test in development for Alzheimer's detection

Thursday, 01 Feb, 2018

"I can see in the future, five years from now, where people have a regular check-up every five years after age 55 or 60 to determine whether they are on the Alzheimer's pathway or not, " Professor Masters said.

Researchers in Japan and Australia have developed a blood test that detects the toxic protein amyloid beta which has been linked to Alzheimer's brain disease.

While the test is now only available for research-related purposes, Professor Masters says it should be generally available in a few years. "In the first instance, however, it will be an invaluable tool in increasing the speed of screening potential patients for new drug trials", Laureate Professor Colin Masters from Melbourne's Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health said. None of the three drugs now on the market treat the underlying disease.

"New drugs are urgently required, and the only way to do that is to speed up the whole process", he added.

Currently, the only tests available for the reliable detection of amyloid-beta build-up, which include the injection of radioactive tracers and lumbar punctures, are expensive and invasive.

At the moment due to the long time spans involved in pharmaceutical studies, companies require extremely accurate predictions of who is most at risk before going ahead with trials.

This first small test by scientists in the U.S. has left promises, as it seems to improve the quality of life of patients, slowing the worsening of the disease and allowing them to maintain their autonomy in their day-to-day activities for longer.

The process starts silently about 30 years before any outward signs of dementia. A new breakthrough blood test, developed by an worldwide team of scientists, can reportedly measure the concentration of these amyloid beta concentrations using just a tiny blood sample.

"This new test has the potential to eventually disrupt the expensive and invasive scanning and spinal fluid technologies".

Using high-tech mass spectrometry technology, known as IP-MS, scientists identified patients with the rogue peptide in their blood plasma, indicating a build-up of beta-amyloid in the brain, with 90 per cent accuracy.

A Japanese team led by Dr Katsuhiko Yanagisawa, from the National Centre for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Obu, showed that relative levels of the biomarkers reflected the state of beta-amyloid deposition in the brain.