Minimally Invasive Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease
Source: Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health
Summary: Researchers from Japan and Australia have teamed up to develop and validate a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease, with the potential to massively ramp up the pace of Alzheimer’s disease drug trials.
One of the essential hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is a buildup of beta-amyloid (an abnormal peptide) in the brain. The process starts silently about 30 years before outward signs of dementia, like memory loss or cognitive decline, have begun. Current tests for beta-amyloid include brain scans with costly radioactive tracers, or analyzing spinal fluid taken via a lumbar puncture. These are expensive and invasive, and generally only available in a research setting. A diagnosis is usually made by assessing a patient’s range of symptoms. Researchers from Japan and Australia have teamed up to develop and validate a blood test for Alzheimer’s, with the potential to massively ramp up the pace of Alzheimer’s disease drug trials. The blood test measures a specific peptide in the blood to inform scientists, with 90% accuracy, if a patient has the very earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The study findings were published in the journal Nature.
Blood samples from patients in a large study from the Japanese National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology (NCGG) were initially analyzed to identify the relevant peptides. Those indicating brain beta-amyloid burden were then tested against patient samples from the Australian Imaging, Biomarker and Lifestyle Study of Aging (AIBL), to validate the results. Progress in developing new therapeutic strategies for Alzheimer’s disease has been disappointingly slow. New drugs are urgently required, and the only way to do that is to speed up the whole process. That requires trials with rigorous and economical patient selection, to avoid recruiting patients who may not even have Alzheimer’s disease. Due to the long timespans involved, pharmaceutical companies require accurate predictions of who is most at risk.
Prof. Colin Masters said, “This new test has the potential to eventually disrupt the expensive and invasive scanning and spinal fluid technologies. In the first instance, however, it will be an invaluable tool in increasing the speed of screening potential patients for new drug trials.”
More Information: Akinori Nakamura et al, “High performance plasma amyloid-β biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease”, Nature (2018). DOI: 10.1038/nature25456