Today, by and large, patients receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s only after they exhibit well-known signs of the disease, such as memory loss.
By that point, the best treatment options simply slow the further progression of symptoms.
In a study from the University of Washington, scientists found a new blood test can detect ‘toxic’ amyloid beta protein years before Alzheimer’s symptoms emerge.
They developed a laboratory test that can measure levels of amyloid beta oligomers in blood samples.
Their test—known by the acronym SOBA—could detect oligomers in the blood of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but not in most members of a control group who showed no signs of cognitive impairment at the time the blood samples were taken.
However, SOBA did detect oligomers in the blood of 11 people from the control group.
Follow-up examination records were available for 10 of these people, and all were diagnosed years later with mild cognitive impairment or brain pathology consistent with Alzheimer’s disease.
Essentially, for these 10 people, SOBA had detected the toxic oligomers before symptoms surfaced.
They believe that SOBA could aid in identifying people at risk or incubating Alzheimer’s disease, as well as serve as a readout of therapeutic efficacy to aid in the development of early treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.
The team also showed that SOBA easily could be modified to detect toxic oligomers of another type of protein associated with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.
They hope that this method can help in diagnosing and studying many other ‘protein misfolding’ diseases.
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The study was conducted by Valerie Daggett et al and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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