Blood tests for predicting whether a person will develop dementia and Alzheimer’s has been developed and is considered to be a medical breakthrough.
One test uses fats in the blood stream to predict dementia within three years with 90% accuracy. Researchers from the National Institute on Aging, who presented the study at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington, D.C., gathered blood samples from 174 participants. Of the 174 participants, 70 had Alzheimer’s, 20 had diabetes and 84 were healthy. They found that the participants who had Alzheimer’s had higher amounts of the inactive form of IRS-1 and lower amounts of the active form than those adults who were healthy. The participants who were diabetic had intermediate levels of IRS-1.
The results of the study were so consistent across the board that researchers were able to look at results and predict with 100% accuracy if the person was healthy or had Alzheimer’s.
The test could ultimately lead to successful treatment that would halt or even prevent the disease, scientists said.
The research found that biomarkers in the blood could be used to forecast whether a person would develop Alzheimer’s disease within three years with a 90% level of accuracy.
Charities said Sunday that the findings from the American trial were encouraging and could signify an important advance in dementia treatment.
However, they also warned of ethical dilemmas ahead and said patients must be given a choice about whether they wanted to receive potentially devastating news about their future.
Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s health secretary, told an international summit on dementia last month that the development of such tests could constitute “a massive step forward” in the battle against the disease.
Dr. Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This is a really welcome development — it takes us a step closer to something that could impact on the lives of thousands of people with dementia.”
The research, published in the journal Nature Medicine, identified 10 molecules in the blood that could be used to predict with at least 90% accuracy whether people went on to develop mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s. It is the first study to show differences in biomarkers in the blood between those who went on to suffer the disease, and those who remained “cognitively normal”.
Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington DC said blood tests to identify those likely to develop dementia could be used in major clinical trials within two years.
Existing drugs for Alzheimer’s disease work best if given early, and can lessen the symptoms, but do not slow overall progression of disease.