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New experimental blood test could transform Alzheimer’s diagnosis

August 6, 2020

Alzheimer's patient

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a potentially breakthrough blood test for Alzheimer’s disease, a debilitating and hard-to-diagnose condition that robs patients of their memory and independent function. If and when it’s approved for general use, the new experimental test could provide a quicker, cheaper, more widely available and more definitive way to diagnose the agonizing condition.

An estimated 5.8 million Americans of all ages were living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2019, the annual number of new cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to double by 2050. The condition is characterized by problems with memory, judgment, handling daily tasks and changes in personality.

The experimental test, if deployed, would likely support the quick and cost-effective identification of candidates for clinical trials and help physicians differentiate their patient’s condition from other forms of dementia. The test detects a protein called p-tau217, which is present in Alzheimer’s patients in seven times the amount of subjects without dementia or with other forms of it, the New York Times reported.

In comparison to other diagnostic tools, the test is reportedly more accurate than an MRI; as accurate as PET scanning tapping of cerebrospinal fluid; and nearly as accurate as an autopsy. Many diagnoses are made, often incorrectly, on clinical assessments of memory and cognitive impairments.

“And in over 600 members of the world’s largest family with genetic early-onset Alzheimer’s, the test essentially identified who would develop the disease 20 years before dementia symptoms would surface,” the Times reported.

It will take two to three years to replicate the findings and refine, standardize and secure approval for the test.

“The p-tau217 blood test has great promise in the diagnosis, early detection, and study of Alzheimer’s,” said Lund’s Oskar Hansson, MD, PhD, senior author on the study who spearheaded the international collaborative effort. “While more work is needed to optimize the assay and test it in other people before it becomes available in the clinic, the blood test might become especially useful to improve the recognition, diagnosis, and care of people in the primary care setting.”

As we’ve observed before, blood can tell us a lot about our health, and we support medical researchers working on new diagnostics with a wide range of blood products, including whole blood, plasma, serum and buffy coat.  Specimens come with a range of valuable patient and specimen data including patient demographics, medical conditions, medications, procedures and test results.

Read our earlier blog posts on Alzheimer’s research here and here.

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