Alzheimer’s could impact up to 14 million people in the United States alone, by 2050, as reported by The Alzheimer’s Association. Their December journal article “Alzheimer’s & Dementia” features some of this new research. The early stages of Alzheimer’s can be tricky to detect and diagnose by physicians. Researchers have designed a test for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. This test measures Tau levels in someone’s blood. High levels can be an early warning signal of Alzheimer’s disease. At present, a person who is suspected of having Alzheimer’s may have to visit the hospital for a CT or MRI scan. These scans allow physicians to be able to eliminate other dementia’s or disease, which could imitate Alzheimer’s disease. The most accurate test for diagnosis is studying bio-markers, that may indicate the presence of this disease. It is done through a collection of cerebrospinal fluid. This can be an invasive process, and the most expensive way to diagnose the disease.
Dominic Walsh, PhD, of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham, states that “A blood test for Alzheimer’s disease could be administered easily and repeatedly, with patients going to their primary care office rather than having to go into a hospital.” Using a blood-based test for early diagnosis, it could be the substitute for scanning or cerebrospinal fluid testing. This test could detect markers for the disease, and be less expensive for those suspected of this disease. This could potentially lead to a much earlier diagnosis.
Walsh and associates have developed tests capable of detecting tau fragments in a patient’s blood and cerebrospinal fluid. Tau proteins may cause a harmful buildup of plaque on a person’s brain. These proteins may be at increased states in someone suspected of Alzheimer’s disease. Different researchers determined various means of identifying a variety of tau in cerebrospinal fluid from the blood of two groups of participants. Samples of plasma were used from two study groups. The first group was 65 in number. Then a second group, 86 in number, also participated in the study. In order to determine which test would be the most effective, researchers used five unique tests. These were used to examine tau proteins. When completed, these scientists determined that one test was most efficacious. They called it “the NT1 assay.” In its ability to accurately detect Alzheimer’s sensitiveness and particularity, it turned out to be the test of choice.
The authorities on this research need more groups of people who are willing and able to participate in these studies. Over time, they will need to make determinations based on how blood levels of tau could change, how the numbers appear before the onset of Alzheimer’s, as well as how disease progression appears for someone suspected of this disease. This test will need to be validated in much larger groups of people.
Walsh states that they have made the data and tools available for performing the test on a very large scale. They want other interested research groups to use this information and tools, then test it for themselves. It is important to this study for other groups to be willing to test the credibleness of these findings and make certain that the test will work. Test results need to be done on an even larger number of people who would be willing to be tested. This new blood test could replace imaging, as well as cerebrospinal tests, and possesses the possibility of doing just that very soon.