New blood test can diagnose Alzheimer’s prior to cognitive impairment

Researchers have developed a new blood test to help diagnose people with Alzheimer’s disease up to 20 years before the onset of cognitive impairment.

This new blood test has demonstrated promise in diagnosing people with Alzheimer’s disease. This blood test can allow doctors to detect the disease in persons at genetic risk as early as 20 years before the onset of cognitive impairment.

According to a large international study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and simultaneously presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

Alzheimer’s is traditionally diagnosed by characterising amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain. An inexpensive and widely available blood test for the presence of plaques and tangles would have a profound impact on Alzheimer’s research and care.

According to the new study, measurements of phospho-tau217 (p-tau217), one of the tau proteins found in tangles, could provide a relatively sensitive and accurate indicator of both plaques and tangles in living people.

Promising results from the BioFINDER Study

“The p-tau217 blood test has great promise in the diagnosis, early detection, and study of Alzheimer’s. While more work is needed to optimise the assay and test it in other people before it becomes available in the clinic, the blood test might become especially useful to improve the recognition, diagnosis, and care of people in the primary care setting,” said Oskar Hansson, MD, PhD, Professor of Clinical Memory Research at Lund University, Sweden, who leads the Swedish BioFINDER Study and senior author on the study who spearheaded the international collaborative effort.

In the BioFINDER Study, the assay discriminated between persons with the clinical diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases with 96% accuracy, similar to tau PET scans and CSF biomarkers and better than several other blood tests and MRI measurements; and it distinguished between those with and without an abnormal tau PET scan with 93% accuracy.

“Blood tests like p-tau217 have the potential to revolutionise Alzheimer’s research, treatment and prevention trials, and clinical care,” said Eric Reiman, MD, Executive Director of Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix and a senior author on the study. “While there’s more work to do, I anticipate that their impact in both the research and clinical setting will become readily apparent within the next two years.”

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