New Alzheimer's test method has a hit rate of 90 percent
For years, research into Alzheimer's disease has not provided any significant new knowledge or major breakthroughs. Recently, even the pharmaceutical company Pfizer stopped its research program against Alzheimer's due to lack of results. Now there is new hope. Japanese and Australian scientists have developed an early detection method for Alzheimer's that, in initial tests, was able to correctly diagnose Alzheimer's in 90 percent of cases. Contrary to the common methods, which, despite the high financial expenditure, only give moderate results, this test is also inexpensive and non-invasive.
It is a blood test that can be used to identify people who have high protein levels associated with Alzheimer's disease. If further research confirms this, this long-sought test could become a breakthrough success in the increasingly desperate search for therapies for Alzheimer's and dementia that could benefit millions of people worldwide. An inexpensive blood test could also make it easier for pharmaceutical companies to find potential Alzheimer's patients for studies that test new drugs. The study results were published in the renowned journal "Nature".
How does the new blood test work?
According to the researchers, the test identifies people whose brains have high levels of amyloid-β. This is a protein that plays a key role in Alzheimer's disease. It is suspected of causing dementia and its presence is considered a symptom of the disease. The researchers hope that drug developers can use the test to identify people with dementia early on and encourage them to participate in clinical trials before irreversible damage to their brains has occurred. This could make future clinical trials more reliable and help develop suitable medicines.
Researchers have been looking for a suitable test for 15 years
The research team led by molecular biologist Katsuhiko Yanagisawa from the Center for Development of Advanced Medicine for Dementia in Japan developed the prototype for the biomarker test. "This study offers the best results I've seen," said neuroscientist Simon Lovestone, University of Oxford, UK, in a press release on the study results. Lovestone had previously conducted other studies on the subject. Scientists around the world have been doing a simple blood test for dementia for the past 15 years.
Why is a simple blood test so important for Alzheimer's research?
So far, there has been no reliable way to identify people with early stages of dementia, so most clinical trials recruited people for whom the clinical symptoms were already evident. "At this point, amyloid-β brain damage has already occurred and it may be too late to reverse it," Yanagisawa explains. The new test enables a completely new approach in future studies.
Alzheimer's research goes astray
All previous drug candidates that should stop Alzheimer's disease have failed in clinical trials. Therefore, many pharmaceutical companies have given up and stopped the research field. Until now, complex and costly methods have been required to identify amyloid-β in the brain. In addition, the procedures were very uncomfortable for the patients because they required, for example, the spinal fluid to be removed.
The future of Alzheimer's research
The researchers compared the results of the new blood test with measurements that came from more complex methods such as brain imaging or spinal fluid analysis. The test results of 121 people from Japan and 252 people from Australia were included. The results were the same. However, according to the authors, larger and longer-term studies are still needed to check how accurate the blood test is when identifying high levels of amyloid-β in human brains. (vb)