It’s too early to say for sure, but a new blood test demonstrating a 90% accuracy rate could help scientists identify toxic proteins in the brain.
Amyloid beta proteins, which most scientists believe are somehow linked to Alzheimer’s disease, can end up in the blood stream in tiny amounts if they’ve begun accumulating in the brain. The scientists who developed this blood test have shown that by analyzing the ratios of types of amyloid fragments in the blood, they could predict levels of the protein in the brain.
It’s the first time anyone has illustrated a strong association between blood plasma and the brain.
Here’s James Gallagher, reporting for BBC News:
At the moment there is no treatment to change the course of Alzheimer’s, so any test would have limited use for patients.
However, it could be useful in clinical trials.
Prof Tara Spires-Jones, from the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, at the University of Edinburgh, said: “These data are very promising and may be incredibly useful in the future, in particular for choosing which people are suited for clinical trials and for measuring whether amyloid levels are changed by treatments in trials.”
It’s also cheaper than a brain scan, too, which means the technique could be more widely used. Other tests, like this one that measures smell loss, are also inexpensive, but deal with more subjective evidence. Early-onset markers are also difficult to parse, since behaviors that could be linked with Alzheimer’s may also take an alternate path toward Parkinson’s or a different neurodegenerative disease.
Still, all of this evidence-gathering brings us closer to a possible cure, so this blood test is a promising step in the right direction.