The degenerative processes causing Alzheimer’s Disease are believed to start often years before clinical symptoms become apparent.
Researchers have been investigating ways of detecting the disease earlier. Such tests should help in learning more about how the disease progresses. Tests which aid the early diagnosis of dementia would make it easier to put suitable support measures in place for the individuals (and their families / carers) in a timely manner. Tests for the earlier detection of dementia could also be useful in order for treatments to be developed (in future) which might be given before large areas of the brain have been destroyed.
One new way of testing for Alzheimer’s Disease has shown early promise. The test was thought to be accurate 93% of the time in trials on 202 people, according to research published in Genome Biology. Researchers at Saarland University, Germany, analysed 140 microRNAs (fragments of genetic code) in the blood of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and in healthy people and have found differences in the genetic material which might be used to identify future patients earlier. They discovered 12 microRNAs in the blood which are identifiable in markedly different levels in people with Alzheimer’s Disease, thereby making it possible to distinguish with diagnostic accuracy between Alzheimer’s Disease patients and healthy individuals.
“A blood test to help detect Alzheimer’s could be a useful addition to a doctor’s diagnostic armoury, but such a test must be well validated before it’s considered for use. We need to see these findings confirmed in larger samples and more work is needed to improve the test’s ability to distinguish Alzheimer’s from other neurological conditions”.
Gallagher, J. (2013). Alzheimer’s blood test edges closer. London: BBC Health News, July 29th 2013.
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Full Text Link (b) (This is currently a provisional early version of the Open Access article).
Glass, D. Vinuela, A. [and] Davies, M.N. [et al] (2013). Gene expression changes with age in skin, adipose tissue, blood and brain. (Early preprint). Genome Biology, July 26th 2013, 14: R75.
[A brief reference to this item features in Dementia and Elderly Care: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWNHST), Volume 3 Issue 9, August 2013].