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Experts say that a blood test has the potential to greatly improve the way Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed.

Experts say that a blood test has the potential to greatly improve the way Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed.

New evidence suggests that inexpensive blood tests may be just as accurate as expensive brain scans or painful lumbar punctures in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease quickly. This could greatly improve the diagnostic process.

New research has advanced the potential for accurate blood tests to detect dementia. Last year, a team of UK researchers initiated a £5m project aimed at achieving the ability to diagnose individuals within seconds through the NHS within a five-year timeframe.

Researchers recently assessed a commercially available blood test that is currently being sold. The results showed that it may be just as effective, if not more so, than lumbar punctures and costly scans in identifying indicators of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain.

The study’s primary author, Dr. Nicholas Ashton from Gothenburg University in Sweden, stated that the findings have significant significance because previous studies have demonstrated that the drugs donanemab and lecanemab can delay the deterioration of cognitive function in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

“According to him, in order to be eligible for [the new medications], you must demonstrate the presence of amyloid in your brain. Unfortunately, it is not feasible to perform spinal taps and brain scans on all individuals who may require it globally. This is where the blood test holds immense promise.”

However, Ashton mentioned that the tests could still have value even if the drugs are not accessible, as is currently the situation in the UK.

The speaker suggested that the condition may not be Alzheimer’s disease, but could instead be a different form of dementia. This could assist in determining the appropriate course of action for the patient’s care and treatment.

According to Ashton and colleagues in the journal Jama Neurology, the protein p-tau217 is a widely recognized indicator of brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease.

Previous studies have demonstrated its potential to distinguish Alzheimer’s from other forms of neurodegenerative diseases and to identify the illness, even in individuals with mild cognitive impairment.

The protein levels found in blood have demonstrated potential as a means of diagnosing Alzheimer’s. However, there is a scarcity of these tests for both research and medical purposes.

In an effort to enhance accessibility, the scientists examined a preexisting commercially available blood test for p-tau217, known as ALZpath.

The creators of ALZpath are currently in talks with laboratories in the United Kingdom to release it for clinical purposes this year. One of the co-authors, Henrik Zetterberg, is also offering the assay for research purposes through the “biomarker factory” at UCL.

The study included examining data from various trials conducted in the United States, Canada, and Spain. It involved 786 participants, both with and without cognitive impairment.

During the three experiments, participants underwent a lumbar puncture or an amyloid PET scan to detect the presence of amyloid and tau proteins, which are indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers then analyzed the results alongside those from the ALZpath blood test.

The study revealed that the blood test is equally precise as tests using lumbar punctures and surpasses brain atrophy evaluations in detecting indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ashton stated that 80% of people could be conclusively diagnosed using only a blood test, without the need for further investigation.

David Curtis, a professor emeritus at the Genetics Institute at University College London, expressed his approval of the results and proposed that the blood tests could potentially be utilized to screen individuals over the age of 50 every few years, similar to how they are currently screened for high cholesterol.

Nonetheless, Ashton advised being careful as it has not been proven that medications for Alzheimer’s are beneficial for those without symptoms.

“If amyloid is present in the brain at 50 years old, the blood test will yield a positive result,” he explained. “However, the recommended use of these blood tests, according to guidelines, is to aid clinicians when there are concerns about potential Alzheimer’s disease or declining memory.”

The research study, according to Dr. Richard Oakley who is an associate director at the Alzheimer’s Society, is a positive move towards progress.

He stated that blood tests are equally as precise as invasive and costly tests in determining if someone has indications of Alzheimer’s disease in their brain.

Moreover, it implies that the findings of these tests may be sufficiently definitive to obviate the need for additional inquiries for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, potentially expediting the diagnostic process in the future.

However, he emphasized the need for additional efforts.

He stated that further research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of these blood tests for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease in various communities.

Source: theguardian.com