News about a new blood test to discover who is at risk for Alzheimer’s disease years before the symptoms show up was published April 6, 2018, in EMBO Molecular Medicine.
Alzheimer’s disease causes the build up of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain, which in turn cause the destruction of brain cells that lead to progressive memory loss, cognitive decline and personality and behavior disorders associated with dementia. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) there are about five million American seniors afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease and the numbers are on the increase. Alzheimer’s is ranked as the 6th cause of death in the US, but more recent estimates claim that many Alzheimer’s deaths go unreported and it may really rank as the third cause of death in seniors.
New Blood Test for Amyloid-β
Alzheimer’s disease does not come on suddenly. It develops slowly over a long period of time. In fact it is believed that it begins about 10-20 years before symptoms show up. A new blood test developed by Klaus Gerwert and other researchers at Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany, can identify who is a risk for getting Alzheimer’s by measuring two kinds of amyloid-β in the blood by a method called immuno-infrared sensor. There are actually two kinds of amyloid-β – one is the healthy kind and the other is the dangerous kind that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. The sensor measures both of them and as each one reacts differently to the sensor, they can be identified and the ratio between the two can be analyzed.
No Present Cure for Alzheimer’s Disease
Lifestyle Changes may Prevent Alzheimer’s
There is no cure at present for Alzheimer’s disease, but hopefully a cure or a drug that can prevent Alzheimer’s will soon be found. Lifestyle changes may help slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s like switching to a Mediterranean Diet with extra virgin olive oil as the only fat, giving up drinking alcoholic beverages, eating red beets and eating foods rich in B vitamins, especially Vitamin B3 Niacin.
Blood Test 86% Accurate
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s is also very difficult and expensive, as it can only be seen clearly in a positron emission tomography (PET), scan or with a spinal lumbar tap. This new test is a much less expensive way to identify those at most risk. The blood test is about 86% accurate, which means there may be false positive results for some people.
Blood Test for Predicting Parkinson’s Disease
The same team hope to develop a similar blood test to detect Parkinson’s disease which will search for a different substance called alpha-synuclein.
This blood test to predict Alzheimer’s is a breakthrough for identifying years ahead of time those people who are at high risk for Alzheimer’s. The hope is that some kind of preventive cure will be discovered. There is some evidence from research that making lifestyle changes can help to ward off the progression of the disease. However, since the blood test is not 100% accurate and some people will get false positive results, it is to be hoped that further research will produce a more accurate test. One also has to consider the psychological effects and stress that may be experienced when people get a positive result. After all, someone is going to be told that they may get a disease that is not only going to end in death, but will first cause massive destruction to the brain, a loss of memory and a decline in cognitive function. Also, since stress is believed by some researchers to cause or worsen Alzheimer’s this is no small matter.