Alzheimer's, a blood test could identify it early

Alzheimer's, a blood test could identify it early

Measuring p-tau217 protein levels in the blood detects Alzheimer's disease. This test in the future could help to make early diagnoses and give the possibility to intervene before the symptoms of dementia occur

(photo: Andrew Brookes / Getty Images) In the future diagnosing Alzheimer's disease could be easier. Instead of crossing memory tests and brain scans, doctors could prescribe a simple blood draw and assess plasma levels of the p-tau217 protein. To support the validity of this approach are today two new studies, one from Lund University (Sweden) and one from the Washington School of Medicine (USA), published respectively in Jama and in the Journal of Experimental Medicine: the test would have an accuracy of 96% and, although it now has more research value than anything else, in the future it could become a screening to detect disease early and intervene before the brain is irreparably compromised.

Early diagnosis

Researchers and clinicians have long been looking for ways to predict or diagnose Alzheimer's dementia early by identifying biomarkers. Today, in fact, the disease is identified in most cases when the symptoms are evident and the brain is now too compromised to be able to evaluate the effects of experimental therapies.

In fact, we remember that there is no cure for Alzheimer's and that due to the poor results of research in the face of major investments, some large pharmaceutical companies are abandoning the sector.

For this reason, to find a simple, cheap and perhaps applicable on a large scale to make an early diagnosis it is so important. And maybe we are at a turning point.

The blood testing

In the two research scientists show how the presence of certain levels in the plasma of the protein p-tau217 to be highly specific for Alzheimer's disease and to measure them may help make a diagnosis in a simple, but accurate.

people with Alzheimer's have levels of p-tau217 in the blood than persons who do not have – values that can be found already many years before the symptoms of the disease manifest themselves.

According to the researchers, the test protein p-tau217 provides an overview of the condition of the patient, equivalent to what you get with a brain scan or going to look for the same protein in the fluid of the brain and in the spinal cord of patients even before they develop symptoms. Also by analysing this parameter we can differentiate Alzheimer's from other neurodegenerative conditions.

Toward mass screening?

For the experts these results are exciting , but you have to remain with their feet on the ground. Will have to spend a lot more time before the test can be implemented in clinical practice should be validated by further studies .

in Addition, a screening mass would of the ethical issues and practices which the society and governments should respond. “The people they would really like to know who will develop Alzheimer's disease, given that there is no treatment?” he asks David Curtis of Ucl. “They could use this information to plan for retirement or make arrangements in advance for assistance?”

The two studies raise important bases, but for the moment, the application of the test has greater significance in the context of research , to identify very early disease in people who have a family history of dementia, and that could participate in clinical studies that allow you to finally find effective approaches to block or delay neurodegeneration and its manifestations.

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