One of the greatest advancements in Alzheimer’s disease research is drawing near. Researchers out of Rotterdam, Netherlands are closer than ever in creating a blood test that could detect Alzheimer’s earlier than any other existing test — even earlier than when the symptoms start appearing.
Such a test would be a profound step in trying to reign in this incurable disease that needs to be diagnosed as early as possible so it can be slowed down with hope of reversing it. Often a patient finds out too late that their fading memory is, in fact, Alzheimer’s disease, and by that time the only thing left for him/her to do is to prepare for (rather than prevent) what’s to come.
In the blood there are special forms of “beta amyloid” proteins, which are molecules found deep in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Researchers are learning that these proteins floating in the bloodstream are linked to an increased risk of dementia. Specifically, high levels of protein “1-40” and low levels of protein “1-42” are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers followed the mental health of nearly 1,800 people who were over the age of 55. Over nine years, just under 400 people developed dementia.
In their bloodstream, the researchers saw that those individuals with high or low levels of certain beta amyloid proteins had a tenfold higher risk of getter dementia. That is a pretty gigantic difference. The result is that an easy blood test could be of significant use in assessing a person’s risk of the memory-ravaging disease.
The 1-42 protein is the most dangerous form of beta amyloid. This is the same one found in high quantities within the brain, creating the clogging plaque that damages brain cells. In this way, blood tests might reveal some valuable information about plaque levels. It is, according to the scientists, a “big step forward” in Alzheimer’s research. A test that detected dementia early could pave the way for future medications, which could halt the progression of the disease.
Even now, there are several drugs in the pipeline that could be effective in the future for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. They are being studied in clinical trials as we speak. The long-term goal remains to develop a test that can spot dementia early — really early. Scientists are hot on the trail of figuring out Alzheimer’s: there’s hope for the future.