Scientists can detect Alzheimer’s disease 17 years in advance


The dementia disorder Alzheimer’s disease has a symptom-free course of 15 to 20 years before the first clinical symptoms emerge.

In a study from Ruhr-Universität Bochum, scientists were able to identify signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the blood up to 17 years before the first clinical symptoms appear.

They used an immuno-infrared sensor, which detects the misfolding of the protein biomarker amyloid-beta. As the disease progresses, this misfolding causes characteristic deposits in the brain, so-called plaques.

In the study, the researchers analyzed blood plasma from participants for potential Alzheimer’s biomarkers. The blood samples had been taken between 2000 and 2002 and then frozen.

At that time, the test participants were between 50 and 75 years old and hadn’t yet been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

For the current study, 68 participants were selected who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease during the 17-year follow-up and compared with 240 control subjects without such a diagnosis.

The team aimed to find out whether signs of Alzheimer’s disease could already be found in the blood samples at the beginning of the study.

They found the immuno-infrared sensor was able to identify the 68 test participants who later developed Alzheimer’s disease with a high degree of test accuracy.

For comparison, the researchers examined other biomarkers with the complementary, highly sensitive SIMOA technology—specifically the P-tau181 biomarker, which is currently being proposed as a promising biomarker candidate in various studies.

The team found that the concentration of glial fiber protein (GFAP) can indicate the disease up to 17 years before the clinical phase, even though it does so much less precisely than the immuno-infrared sensor.

Still, by combining amyloid-beta misfolding and GFAP concentration, the researchers were able to further increase the accuracy of the test in the symptom-free stage.

The researchers hope that an early diagnosis based on the amyloid-beta misfolding could help to apply Alzheimer’s drugs at such an early stage that they have a significantly better effect.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about how vitamin supplementation may affect the dementia risk, and Vitamin E may help prevent Parkinson’s disease.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies that vitamin D deficiency may cause dementia, and results showing these antioxidants could help reduce the risk of dementia.

The study was conducted by Professor Klaus Gerwert et al and published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

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