New test could detect Alzheimer’s disease in blood

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In a study from the University of Pittsburgh, scientists developed a test to detect a novel marker of Alzheimer’s disease neurodegeneration in a blood sample.

The biomarker, called brain-derived tau, or BD-tau, outperforms current blood diagnostic tests used to detect Alzheimer’s-related neurodegeneration clinically.

It is specific to Alzheimer’s disease and correlates well with Alzheimer’s neurodegeneration biomarkers in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Currently, to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, clinicians need the detection of three distinct components of Alzheimer’s pathology—the presence of amyloid plaques, tau tangles and neurodegeneration in the brain—either by imaging or by analyzing CSF samples.

Unfortunately, both approaches suffer from economical and practical limitations.

The development of simple tools detecting signs of Alzheimer’s in the blood without compromising on quality is an important step toward improved accessibility.

Current blood diagnostic methods can accurately detect abnormalities in plasma amyloid beta and the phosphorylated form of tau, hitting two of the three necessary checkmarks to confidently diagnose Alzheimer’s.

In the study, the team developed a technique to selectively detect BD-tau while avoiding free-floating “big tau” proteins produced by cells outside the brain.

To do that, they designed a special antibody that selectively binds to BD-tau, making it easily detectible in the blood.

They validated their assay across over 600 patient samples from five independent cohorts, including those from patients whose Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis was confirmed after their deaths, as well as from patients with memory deficiencies indicative of early-stage Alzheimer’s.

The tests showed that levels of BD-tau detected in blood samples of Alzheimer’s disease patients using the new assay matched with levels of tau in the CSF and reliably distinguished Alzheimer’s from other neurodegenerative diseases.

Levels of BD-tau also correlated with the severity of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain tissue confirmed via brain autopsy analyses.

The scientists hope that monitoring blood levels of BD-tau could improve clinical trial design and facilitate screening and enrolment of patients from populations that historically haven’t been included in research cohorts.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about daytime napping strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and how to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about alternative drug strategy against Alzheimer’s, and coconut oil may help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.

The study was conducted by Thomas Karikari et al and published in Brain.

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