From its onset, Alzheimer’s disease can be a tricky diagnosis for physicians to recognize. Forgetting small things comes with age, so family and physicians must carefully examine the daily routine of a potential Alzheimer’s patient. Thankfully, while there is still much to learn, researchers have made significant progress in determining who has the greatest risk of developing the condition and what exactly causes it.
A new study published in Nature Medicine states that a new blood test may allow physicians to determine who will develop Alzheimer’s disease years before any symptoms begin to show. The researchers from Georgetown University Center are the first to claim that they have developed a blood test that can predict Alzheimer’s before a patient experiences memory loss, according to USA Today. In the study, the researchers found that the levels of 10 fats differed in Alzheimer’s patients. The head researcher said that the test, which sought to predict who would develop Alzheimer’s based on the levels of 10 fats in the blood, was approximately 90 percent accurate.
The test was developed by analyzing blood samples taken from 525 people age 70 and older. The researchers initially compared the blood samples of 50 participants who developed the condition with the blood samples of 50 who did not, which allowed them to identify the 10 fats which distinguished the two groups. To ensure that their test was sound, the researchers then confirmed their results by comparing the fat levels in 40 additional participants.
The researchers concede that additional study is needed before the test is able to be employed outside of the clinical-trial context. Most of the participants in the study were white, so the effectiveness of the test on people from different racial or ethnic backgrounds is unknown. Additionally, the researchers do not know how early the test can be used.
Despite the need for more scientific tests for Alzheimer’s biomarkers, Alzheimer’s disease experts say a potential blood test like the one used in the study would be a better approach for testing for Alzheimer’s than current tests such as spinal taps. Still, some remain skeptical of the blood test as a foolproof means of determining whether or not someone will develop the condition.