Virtually every new find that premiered at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference was cautioned with the same throat clearing from its panelists: At the end of the day, no-one really knows why cognitive failure happens. There are correlative things to both avoid and adopt to reduce one’s risk, but nothing definitive can be confidently declared.
The irresolute pathology of dementia presents an equally ambiguous difficulty to those devoted to treating the illness with any sort of utility. Most patients that seek medical evaluation are pretty far gone. Their brain neurons have already been severely damaged, making the prognosis grim. The grail is clear; if medical professionals can find a way to locate the exact cause of degenerative disorders they can dually begin treating victims before the carnage begins.
A new study published in the journal Neurology posits an inspired solution. The researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis that authored the paper, report that they have developed a blood test that is 94% accurate in determining brain changes early on in the development of Alzheimer’s disease when combined with other genetic risk factors.
For some time, researchers have known that sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease evidence abnormal production of amyloid proteins. By and by these build-ups clump, forming plaques. In fact, detecting deposits of Amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles is an integral step in the official diagnosis process, one traditionally commenced by a magnetic resonance imaging scan.
The study’s senior author Dr. Randall Bateman, who is also a professor of neurology, and first author, Dr. Suzanne Schindler, associate professor of neurology, have found a way to identify these plagues via blood samples. Even in the most optimistic projection, these samples can not conclude a diagnosis by themselves, but they can individuate one of the major neuropathological changes characteristic of the disease.
One-hundred and fifty-eight subjects over the age of 50 were administered a blood test designed to survey levels of the beta-amyloid protein. This trial quested to determine how accurate a blood test faired compared to a traditional brain scan; as it turns out quite, just not quite enough for a diagnostic test
. At this stage, if the new method is to be employed with any kind of regularity, it has to be coupled with other risk factors to train the crosshair. Patients over the age of 65, that posses a genetic variant known as APOE4 (present in about 10-15% of the population), who underwent the blood test, yielded results that were 94% accurate to brain scans. This demographic is of particular interest because of their predisposition for developing the condition.
Amongst the ruff and tumble of effective drug trials, are expensive and invasive methods of diagnosis. Anything to diminish the sizeable amount of the population that avoids seeking treatment for fear of discomfort and or lack of financial resources will concurrently reduce the miles separating scholars and a cure.
Bateman explains, “That means we can more efficiently enroll participants in clinical trials, which will help us find treatments faster, and could have an enormous impact on the cost of the disease as well as the human suffering that goes with it,”