8 Jul 2014

'Major step' in test for Alzheimer's

9:52 pm on 8 July 2014

British scientists have made a "major step forward" in developing a blood test to predict the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Research in more than 1000 people has identified a set of proteins in the blood which can predict the start of the dementia with 87% accuracy.

Researchers identified a set of 10 proteins in the blood whose presence can help predict the onset of Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia. It's hoped the disease can be diagnosed quickly by monitoring the proteins in people whose memories are beginning to fail. That could transform the search for treatments.

The findings, published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, will be used to improve trials for new dementia drugs. However, experts warned that the test was not yet ready for doctors' surgeries.

Research into treatments for Alzheimer's disease has been plagued by failure, the BBC reports. Between 2002 and 2012, 99.6% of trials aimed at preventing or reversing the disease flopped.

Doctors believe the failure is down to treating patients when it is already too late, since symptoms appear around a decade after the start of the disease. Identifying patients earlier is one of the priorities for dementia research.

The research group, which combines university and industry scientists, looked for differences in the blood of 452 healthy people, 220 with mild cognitive impairment and 476 with Alzheimer's disease.

They were able to tell with 87% accuracy which patients with mild cognitive impairment would go on to develop Alzheimer's disease in the next year.

"We want to be able to identify people to enter clinical trials earlier than they currently do and that's really what we've been aiming at," said lead researcher Professor Simon Lovestone from the University of Oxford.

However, he said it may find a place in doctors' surgeries in the future.

"As long as there is no treatment one can question the value of a test, but people come to the clinic because they want to know what's happening to them and I currently can't tell them."

Professor Lovestone said he was forced to tell patients to come back in a year and see if their memory problems were any worse.