The incidence of Alzheimer’s has steadily increased over the last decade, and researchers have now found a possible way to diagnose it in its earlier stages.
Current diagnostic tools include a protein marker in the cerebrospinal fluid—the fluid present in the brain—and brain scans that detect structural abnormalities. These are costly and inconvenient procedures.
Can the Blood Have Clues About a Problem in the Brain?
A blood test now promises to replace these in an improved and more widespread diagnostic test. Detecting ‘molecular signatures’ of diseases would serve both as a diagnostic tool and offer insight into therapeutic procedures by knowing the proteins or lipids that are expressed in increased or decreased quantities in patients with the disease. While the search for blood markers has been going on, it has not been possible to find blood markers that are consistently found in Alzheimer’s patients, because this disease is thought to be caused by a combination of many factors. Besides, different methods yield different markers, and different body fluids may also yield different markers!
Researchers from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative have discovered 4 protein markers which can be used to identify Alzheimer’s patients in early stages of the disease. They had initially discovered 17 molecules in blood plasma which were associated with very mild Alzheimer’s, but narrowed this list down to 4 markers which were also seen in an independent sample set of 566 Alzheimer’s patients. These 4 biomarkers were also seen to be associated with distinct signatures in the cerebrospinal fluid of the Alzheimer brain, further strengthening their link to the neurological disease.
Further studies need to be performed to determine the feasibility of this procedure. You can read about this research here.