Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Wisdom Wednesday: Blood Test Detects Alzheimer’s Before Symptoms Appear
One of the major issues that hamper Alzheimer’s research is that the disease is always caught at a relatively late stage. This is because symptoms develop slowly over several years; they become obvious long after the condition has made changes in the brain.
The only reliable methods of diagnosis are positron emission tomography (PET) scan and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis collected by lumbar puncture.
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is an abnormal buildup of amyloid-beta plaques in the brain. Amyloid-beta is present in the healthy brain, but, in individuals with Alzheimer’s the protein is folded incorrectly and accumulates. Amyloid-beta plaque clusters can begin developing 15-20 years before symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear.
This unhealthy protein is the basis of a new blood test. In a study published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, researchers led by Klaus Gerwert, describe their groundbreaking work.
The new blood test uses immune-infrared sensor technology. Based on an antibody, the sensor extracts all amyloid-beta from the blood sample. The two versions of amyloid-beta absorb infrared light at different frequencies allowing he researchers to measure the relative levels of healthy and unhealthy protein.
In the initial phase of the study individuals who showed subtle, early symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the test detected changes in levels of amyloid-beta that correlated with abnormal deposits visualized using brain scans.
In the next phase, they assessed blood samples from 65 individuals who later went on to develop Alzheimer’s and compared them with 809 individuals who did not develop the disease. On average, the blood test could detect Alzheimer’s in individuals 8 years before clinical symptoms became apparent.
It correctly diagnosed Alzheimer’s in 70% of cases and wrongly predicted that 9% would develop the disease. Overall, the diagnostic accuracy was 86%.
The team plans to use a similar technology to detect a biomarker (alpha-synuclein) associated with another condition that is difficult to detect early – Parkinson’s disease.
Early detection leads to early treatment. Medical interventions in Alzheimer’s are currently limited. However, there have been several studies that have looked at DHA in fish oil as a preventative. Additionally, my blog on Monday outlined research on the use of red beets as a preventative as well.
I would like to see a study that uses both these foods, in supplement form, and then monitors amyloid-beta plaque using this new blood test.
The Bottom Line:
Until this blood is available to the public, I highly recommend you supplement fish oil and Betafood (organic red beets) daily if you are concerned about potentially developing Alzheimer’s.
Source: April 9, 2018 National Institutes of Health