A blood test has been trialled that can diagnose Alzheimer’s two decades before symptoms occur.
The simple test measures levels of a protein linked to the disease in the blood and was found to be 94% accurate.
A blood test to diagnose dementia has been the holy grail for neuroscientists, as tackling the disease before symptoms start is key.
Once they develop irreparable damage has already been done to the brain.
The test, developed by US researchers, could be available to doctors within “a few years”.
They say it was so accurate in the trial of 158 patients that it may be better than the current “gold standard” test – a time-consuming and expensive PET brain scan.
One person is diagnosed with dementia every three minutes in Britain. Before they develop memory loss and confusion, clumps of the protein amyloid beta build up in their brains.
Research to find a drug that could halt the progress of dementia has hit a dead end.
The new test could be used to recruit thousands of people on to clinical trials to make this breakthrough. Author Prof Randall Bateman, of Washington University, said: “If we can run these trials faster, that will get us closer to ending this disease.”
It is hoped people with amyloid beta build-up could have drugs tested on them to prevent cell damage.
Researchers reported they can measure levels of the protein in the blood and use them to predict whether amyloid beta has accumulated.
When combined with two other major Alzheimer’s risk factors – age and the presence of the genetic variant APOE4 – people with early brain changes were identified with 94% accuracy.
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