Groundbreaking blood test could detect Alzheimer’s Disease 15 years in advance

As the global population continues to age, health experts are gearing up for a surge in age-related diseases, leading with Alzheimer’s.

As the global population continues to age, health experts are gearing up for a surge in age-related diseases, with Alzheimer's disease looming as a significant concern.

Detecting and diagnosing Alzheimer's early has never been more critical, as new treatments show the most promise when administered in the disease's early stages.

Unfortunately, the current diagnostic methods, such as PET imaging and lumbar punctures, are either too expensive or invasive for most individuals, leaving a significant number of cases undiagnosed.

In a groundbreaking study recently published in JAMA Neurology, researchers have unveiled a promising and more accessible diagnostic tool that utilizes blood samples and detects Alzheimer’s up to 15 years before symptoms emerge. The test could potentially revolutionize the screening and monitoring of this neurodegenerative condition.

The study, a collaborative effort between the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and ALZPath, a company specializing in blood-based Alzheimer's tests for research purposes, aimed to evaluate the efficacy of the blood test in comparison to the gold standard diagnostic methods of PET imaging and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tests from lumbar punctures.

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This comprehensive research involved the analysis of scans and samples from nearly 800 individuals across three diverse patient populations in the United States, Canada, and Spain.

Remarkably, the blood test demonstrated performance on par with CSF in detecting Alzheimer's, an encouraging discovery given that CSF matches PET scans in diagnostic accuracy.

Nicholas Ashton, an associate professor of neurochemistry at the University of Gothenburg and the study's lead author, expressed optimism about the results, stating, "This test showed that blood and CSF performed exactly the same. The blood test performed excellently—it was almost 95% accurate—and in that regard, it could eventually replace CSF."

Plasma Phosphorylated Tau 217 (p-Tau217) Levels According to Amyloid β (A) and Tau (T) Profiles. (CREDIT: JAMA Network)

The key component of this groundbreaking blood test is the measurement of phosphorylated tau, a protein that has emerged as a robust indicator of Alzheimer's disease. Elevated levels of phosphorylated tau often correspond to the formation of amyloid protein clumps in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer's, which typically precedes the onset of memory loss and cognitive decline by years.

The blood-based test leverages proprietary technology with high sensitivity to detect even trace amounts of this protein, making it a valuable tool for screening Alzheimer's.

Accuracy of the Phosphorylated Tau 217 (p-Tau217) Immunoassay in Detecting Amyloid β (Aβ) Positivity and Tau (T) Positivity and Discriminating A+T− From A+T+ Individuals. (CREDIT: JAMA Network)

In Sweden, medical professionals have already begun integrating the blood test into their Alzheimer's diagnosis and management programs. They are embarking on a real-world study, collecting blood samples to determine the extent to which the blood test alone can reliably diagnose patients and identify those who may require additional confirmatory tests like CSF. Ashton notes, "We hope that everyone who is suspected of having dementia could access this test, which reveals the underlying pathology of what might be causing their symptoms."

Beyond diagnosis, the blood test holds the potential to identify Alzheimer's patients who could benefit from emerging anti-amyloid treatments like lecanemab. Moreover, it can assist doctors in monitoring the treatment's effectiveness. In the United States, eligibility for these drugs often hinges on proving the presence of amyloid in the brain.

Longitudinal Trajectories of Plasma Phosphorylated Tau 217 (p-Tau217) Values According to Amyloid β (A) and Tau (T) Status by Positron Emission Tomography (PET). (CREDIT: JAMA Network)

A straightforward blood test could expedite the identification of suitable candidates. Ashton elaborates, "Rather than wait for a CSF test or PET scan, everyone [who is suspected of having dementia] could at least get a blood exam to see if they are eligible for the drug."

Currently, the ALZPath blood test is accessible primarily to scientists for research purposes through select partner laboratories. However, within the month, doctors in the United States will be able to order the test for use with their patients. Certain laboratory-developed tests performed by certified labs do not require FDA clearance.

Andreas Jeromin, Chief Scientific Officer of ALZPath, anticipates that within the next two to three years, large hospitals and regional labs will begin conducting the test independently as demand surges, potentially opening doors to more widespread Alzheimer's diagnosis and early intervention.

Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.

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Joseph Shavit
Joseph ShavitSpace, Technology and Medical News Writer
Joseph Shavit is the head science news writer with a passion for communicating complex scientific discoveries to a broad audience. With a strong background in both science, business, product management, media leadership and entrepreneurship, Joseph possesses the unique ability to bridge the gap between business and technology, making intricate scientific concepts accessible and engaging to readers of all backgrounds.