The blood test that could detect Alzheimer's years in advance

It’s a catch 22: many of us would like to know if we can prevent an illness, but when it’s one as scary as Alzheimer’s, would you really want to know your prospects of developing it, considering the prognosis?

Luckily, there are ways to delay or reduce cognitive decline if intervened early enough and this latest research will help make that a possibility.

Chemists and psychiatrists at Ruhr University Bochum and the University of Gottingen have built a “proof of concept” test that can pick up the “tell tale” proteins – known as amyloid-beta peptides – that characterise Alzheimer’s disease.

This means the disease could be diagnosed in someone’s 40s, 50s or even 60s, giving people up to 20 years warning before the condition develops.

The German study, published in the journal Analytical Chemistry, suggests that the blood test has an amazing accuracy of 84 per cent.

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In a group of 141 people aged about 70, it successfully identified 21 of the 28 patients who were judged by clinicians to have Alzheimer’s.

The test also correctly identified eight of the 11 participants who had mild memory problems because of the disease.

And although seven out of 58 people were misdiagnosed as having Alzheimer’s, experts said this false positive will be improved before the test could be available to the public.

“If we wish to have a drug at our disposal that can significantly inhibit the progress of the disease, we need blood tests that detect Alzheimer’s in its pre-dementia stages,” says Prof Dr Klaus Gerwert, Head of the Department of Biophysics at RUB.

“By applying such drugs at an early stage, we could prevent dementia, or at the very least delay its onset,” adds Prof Dr med. Jens Wiltfang, Head of the Department for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the University of Göttingen and Clinical Research Coordinator at DZNE Göttingen.

“The sooner Alzheimer’s is detected, the better the therapy chances. This sensor is an important milestone in the right direction”.

Tell us: would you want to know you were going to have Alzheimer’s?