Australian researchers are reporting an advance that brings scientists one step closer to developing a blood test for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease.
The investigators have identified blood-based biological markers that are associated with the buildup of a toxic protein in the brain that occurs years before symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear and irreversible brain damage has occurred.
"Early detection is critical if we are to make any real difference in the battle against Alzheimer's, giving those at risk a much better chance of receiving treatment earlier, before it's too late to do much about it," said Samantha Burnham, M.D., a researcher with Australia's national science agency,
the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
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To identify the biomarkers, the team used sophisticated mathematical models to analyze data from 273 participants in an ongoing study of aging and health. The work identified nine markers that correlate with brain imaging scans measuring a toxic protein, amyloid beta, that deposits in the brain as plaques early in Alzheimer’s development.
"The progressive buildup of the toxic protein, amyloid beta, is one of the earliest changes in the brain associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease," said Noel Faux, M.D., from the Florey Institute for Neuroscience and Mental Health.
"A recent study from the [aging study] team showed that amyloid beta levels become abnormal about 17 years before dementia symptoms appear. This gives us a much longer time to intervene to try to slow disease progression if we are able to detect cases early."
Dr. Burnham said the new study points the way to developing a new “low cost, minimally invasive population based screening test for Alzheimer's."
She added: "A blood test would be the ideal first stage to help identify many more people at risk before a diagnosis is confirmed with cognitive tests and [brain] imaging or cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) testing."
The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
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