Groundbreaking Blood Test Successfully Predicts Onset Of Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other forms of dementia have evaded successful therapies, though considerable research has focused on their development. One reason is that they have also evaded prediction, not even being recognized until memory decline and functional loss appear. Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center, however, recently made a significant breakthrough in identifying blood-based biomarkers of cognitive impairment that can be observed through blood testing up to three years prior to the onset of disease symptoms.
Their study, Plasma phospholipids identify antecedent memory impairment in older adults, is published in today's online issue of Nature Medicine, details the research team's experiments during a 5-year study including 525 healthy participants aged 70 or older who gave blood samples upon enrolling and at various times during the course of the study. From blood analysis of those participants who developed symptoms of cognitive impairment or AD compared to those who did not develop symptoms at any time during the course of the study, researchers were able to identify a lipid panel consisting of 10 lipids found in the blood of the impaired participants.
The lipid panel they developed was able to identify, with 90 percent accuracy, those cognitively normal persons who would develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or AD within two to three years, as well as those who would remain cognitively normal within the same time period.
"We consider our results a major step toward the commercialization of a preclinical disease biomarker test that could be useful for large-scale screening to identify at-risk individuals," said Dr. Howard J. Federoff, M.D., head of the Georgetown study. "We're designing a clinical trial where we'll use this panel to identify people at high risk for Alzheimer's to test a therapeutic agent that might delay or prevent the emergence of the disease."
It's the large scale screening, perhaps available within two to three years, that we hope for. About 36 million people worldwide suffer from AD, and the World Health Organization predicts that number will double every 20 years.
"The preclinical state of the disease offers a window of opportunity for timely disease-modifying intervention," Federoff says. "Biomarkers such as ours that define this asymptomatic period are critical for successful development and application of these therapeutics."