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This Test May Spot Alzheimer’s Before Symptoms Occur


Scientists have developed a simple blood test that may help detect Alzheimer’s disease eight years before the first clinical symptoms occur.

Using current techniques, Alzheimer’s disease, the most frequent cause of dementia, can only be detected once the typical plaques have formed in the brain, said researchers from Ruhr-Universitat Bochum (RUB) in Germany.

At this point, therapy seems no longer possible, they said. However, the first changes caused by Alzheimer’s take place on the protein level up to 20 years earlier.

A two-tier method, described in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring, can help detect the disease at a much earlier stage.

“This has paved the way for early-stage therapy approaches, where the as yet inefficient drugs on which we had pinned our hopes may prove effective,” said Professor Klaus Gerwert from RUB.

In Alzheimer’s patients, the amyloid beta protein folds incorrectly due to pathological changes long before the first symptoms occur.

Researchers successfully diagnosed this misfolding using a simple blood test.

As a result, the disease can be detected about eight years before the first clinical symptoms occur, they said.

However, the test was not suitable for clinical applications, according to the researchers. It detected 71% of Alzheimer’s cases in symptomless stages, but provided false positive diagnoses for 9% of the study participants, they noted.

In order to increase the number of correctly identified Alzheimer’s cases and to reduce the number of false positive diagnoses, the researchers introduced the two-tier diagnostic method.

They used the original blood test to identify highrisk individuals.

They added a dementiaspecific biomarker, tau protein, to run further tests with those test participants whose Alzheimer’s diagnosis was positive in the first step.

If both biomarkers show a positive result, there is a high likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers said.

“The sensor is easy to use, robust when it comes to fluctuation in concentration of biomarkers, and standardised,” said Andreas Nabers, head of the research group
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