A simple and accurate technique for identifying Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages has been created by Swedish scientists. The prototype examines the results of a single blood test as well as three short cognitive tests that take less than 10 minutes to complete.
With only that information, the new system was able to identify which individuals with moderate cognitive impairment will acquire Alzheimer’s disease within four years with 90% accuracy.
That’s a significant advance above existing diagnostic procedures. Dementia specialists, who make diagnoses based on a person’s medical history and brain imaging, fared much worse than this new technology in early testing.
Experts correctly predicted who will acquire Alzheimer’s disease 72 percent of the time after analyzing 340 people in Sweden and 543 people in North America with minor memory difficulties. The new system, on the other hand, was 83 percent accurate in predicting the development of Alzheimer’s disease using simply blood test findings.
These blood plasma samples were used to test for indications of tau protein tangles in patients who already had minor memory impairments, as well as a known Alzheimer’s risk gene. Recent research suggests that tau proteins are present in the brain even in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and scientists discovered last year that plasma P-tau217, a result of tau proteins in the blood, is an excellent predictor of cognitive deterioration in persons with moderate cognitive impairment.
P-tau217 in the cerebrospinal fluid had previously been reported to predict Alzheimer’s-related cognitive impairment, but spinal fluid examinations are much more intrusive and costly than a simple blood test.
Previous prototype blood tests have been created as well, but none have yet to reach the clinic. These blood tests were based on amyloid-beta plaques, which are related to tau proteins and are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
This sort of brain plaque, on the other hand, does not seem to be as common among Alzheimer’s patients as tau proteins. In reality, up to a third of persons with clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease do not have these plaques postmortem, although other persons with no memory problems have.
This prompted researchers to believe that amyloid-beta plaques are disease latecomers, implying that tau-related biomarkers may detect the illness earlier.
“The algorithm will allow us to enroll patients with Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage, when new medications have a higher chance of reducing the illness’s progression,” explains Lund University neuroscientist Oskar Hansson. The researchers anticipate that, following further refinement and modification, this test will make a significant impact in the identification of Alzheimer’s disease, particularly in areas where costly brain imaging technologies or cerebrospinal fluid testing are unavailable.
“Only people who have been assessed in memory clinics have been evaluated using the algorithm thus far. It is also our aim that it will be validated for use in primary healthcare and in underdeveloped nations with low resources “Sebastian Palmqvist, also of Lund University, is the study’s principal author.
The research was published in the journal Nature Medicine.