Brain and Body

New Blood Test Detects Early Alzheimer’s With 100 Percent Accuracy

June 9, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Blood dripping from the needle of a syringe
Photo credit: (CC BY 4.0)

In a "proof of concept" study involving 236 patients.

It’s generally believed that Alzheimer’s-related changes start happening in the brain at least a decade before the telltale symptoms occur, researchers in a new Alzheimer’s study explain.

There’s currently no cure for the brain-degenerative disease, but scientists from the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine have announced a new blood test that can detect early Alzheimer’s with 100 percent accuracy.

In a “proof of concept” study, which has been published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, 236 patients were recruited — 50 with the early stage of Alzheimer’s called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), 50 with mild-moderate Alzheimer’s disease, 50 healthy controls, and the rest had mild-moderate Parkinson’s disease.

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The blood test is designed to detect Alzheimer’s-caused MCI and distinguish it from the other drivers of MCI like chronic depression, alcohol abuse, vascular issues, and the side effects of other drugs.

“To provide proper care, physicians need to know which cases of MCI are due to early Alzheimer's and which are not," lead author Cassandra DeMarshall, doctoral candidate at the Rowan University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, said in a press release. "Our results show that it is possible to use a small number of blood-borne autoantibodies to accurately diagnose early-stage Alzheimer's.

The MCI patients in the study had been diagnosed based on their cerebrospinal fluid showing low levels of amyloid-beta 42 peptide, which has been flagged as a predictor of rapid Alzheimer’s progression.

The researchers analyzed the volunteers’ blood samples using a number of human protein microarrays — each containing 9,486 unique proteins that attract blood-borne autoantibodies.

Using this method, the researchers were able to pinpoint the 50 best autoantibody biomarkers for MCI, and these markers were 100 percent accurate in detecting which participants had MCI based on the blood samples.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first blood test using autoantibody biomarkers that can accurately detect Alzheimer's at an early point in the course of the disease when treatments are more likely to be beneficial — that is, before too much brain devastation has occurred,” explained study lead Dr. Robert Nagele, director of the Biomarker Discovery Center at Rowan's New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging.

This biomarker method was also successful in accurately detecting other diseases — mild-moderate Alzheimer’s (98.7 percent), multiple sclerosis (100 percent), breast cancer (100 percent), and early-stage Parkinson’s disease (98 percent).

However, before getting too excited, it’s important to remember that the research was a proof of concept. The team writes in the research discussion that a much larger sample is needed to see if the 100 percent accuracy would fluctuate with additional data.

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