Alzheimer’s blood test detects disease decades before symptoms, aiding drug search

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From the CNBC Newsroom

Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s. The disease is debilitating and deadly. Day-to-day tasks become difficult or impossible. Caregivers sacrifice untold time and energy to keep patients safe and comfortable.

Researchers have yet to find a drug that reverses the effects of Alzheimer’s once they start to show, and the repeated failures have been crushing. But two recent studies on blood tests might help turn the tide by helping develop more effective treatments.

Researcher Dr. Randall Bateman of Washington University in St. Louis unveiled a blood test this past summer that can detect Alzheimer’s decades before a patient shows physical symptoms. Then this past January a Japanese and Australian team published a study in Nature about a blood test that can detect Alzheimer’s with 90 percent accuracy.

A key characteristic of Alzheimer’s is the buildup of a protein called amyloid beta in the brain. This toxic protein can cause dementia. Amyloid has been the overwhelming target of clinical drug trials in the Alzheimer’s field. Bateman estimates the blood test can detect amyloid up to 20 years before a person will develop Alzheimer’s.

The blood tests use mass spectrometry to detect amyloid beta. Dr. Koichi Tanaka, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, first developed mass spectrometry testing for proteins, and he was instrumental in the Japanese/Australian study.

“The Japanese group independently developed a similar mass-spectrometry assay and found nearly identical findings to ours,” Bateman said via email to CNBC. “This indicates the test is repeatable and robust, even in different labs.”

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Posted on March 6, 2018
Posted in: HPAN, Neurodegeneration, Neurogenetics & Transcriptomics, News Authors: