Scientists Close in on Blood Test for Alzheimer’s – (Associated Press – July 15, 2019)

At the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, half a dozen research groups gave new results on various experimental tests, including one that seems 88% accurate at indicating Alzheimer’s risk. Doctors are hoping for something to use during routine exams, where most dementia symptoms are evaluated, to gauge who needs more extensive testing. Current tools such as brain scans and spinal fluid tests are too expensive or impractical for regular checkups. Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, called the new results “very promising” and said blood tests soon will be used to choose and monitor people for federally funded studies, though it will take a little longer to establish their value in routine medical care. A blood test — rather than subjective estimates of thinking skills — could get the right people into studies sooner. One of the experimental blood tests measures abnormal versions of the protein that forms the plaques in the brain that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Last year, Japanese researchers published a study of it giving results from validation testing on 201 people with Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia, mild impairment, or no symptoms. The blood test results closely matched those from the top tests used now — three types of brain scans and a mental assessment exam, said Dr. Akinori Nakamura of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Obu, Japan. The test correctly identified 92% of people who had Alzheimer’s and correctly ruled out 85% who did not have it, for an overall accuracy of 88%. “Everyone’s finding the same thing … the results are remarkably similar across countries, across techniques,” said Dr. Randall Bateman of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, whose work is supported by the U.S. government and the Alzheimer’s Association. He estimates a screening test could be as close as three years away. What good will that do without a cure? An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last year found that most Americans would want to know if they carried a gene tied to a disease even if it was incurable.

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Written by John L. Petersen

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