Researchers have created a new blood test capable of detecting an early phase of Alzheimer’s disease called the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) stage. The technology is being developed at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. The disease currently affects more than 5 million Americans.

The blood test takes advantage of the body’s immune response system, to determine if an individual has Alzheimer,  a type of dementia that affects the memory, thinking and behavior, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Dementia is “not a normal part of aging”, even when it affects 47.5 million people worldwide. Dementia rates would triple worldwide by 2050, prevailing in low- and middle-income countries said the World Health Organization.

Researchers have created a new blood test capable of detecting an early phase of Alzheimer’s disease called the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) stage.  Photo credit: Bernie Siegel, MD
Researchers have created a new blood test capable of detecting an early phase of Alzheimer’s disease called the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) stage. Photo credit: Bernie Siegel, MD

Alzheimer’s disease is progressive and has no current cure. It is the 6th cause of death in the United States, said the association. The new test would be useful to take preventive measures in time. Results of the investigation were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.

The new blood test is capable of identifying if mild cognitive impairment is caused by Alzheimer’s or not

A team led by Dr. Robert Nagele from Rowan University and Durin Technologies Inc. has carried out a proof concept among 236 voluntary participants. The test achieved to identify 100 percent of users whose MCI was caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

The team analyzed data from blood samples from 50 MCI individuals “with low levels of amyloid-beta 42 peptides in their cerebrospinal fluid”. That indicator can detect pathologies in the brain, triggered by Alzheimer’s, and can calculate its advance.

Cassandra DeMarshall, the study’s lead author, said that Alzheimer’s disease caused MCI in 60 percent of patients. The 40 percent left was generated by other elements including drug side-effects, depression, and vascular issues.

Knowing which cases of mild cognitive impairment are caused by Alzheimer’s disease and which of them are not, is fundamental for physicians, to provide an optimum care, said DeMarshall in a press release issued Wednesday.

“It is possible to use a small number of blood-borne autoantibodies to accurately diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s. These findings could eventually lead to the development of a simple, inexpensive and relatively noninvasive way to diagnose this devastating disease in its earliest stages,” added DeMarshall.

Treatments may be more beneficial when the disease is detected earlier

Dr. Nagele explained that manifestations related to Alzheimer’s begin approximately ten years before significant symptoms appeared. This would be the first blood test ever created to use autoantibody biomarkers, to detect the neurodegenerative disease.

Treatments may be more beneficial when Alzheimer’s is detected early, “before too much brain devastation has occurred,” added Dr. Nagele. The new blood test can also distinguish when MCI is in an early or more advanced stage.

Scientists have described the test as “disease-specific”, since it can differentiate early Alzheimer’s at MCI stage, in comparison with other diseases such as Parkinson’s, breast cancer or multiple sclerosis.

The team has established which 50 autoantibody biomarkers are better to detect “ongoing early-stage Alzheimer’s pathology in patients with MCI.” Using those 50 biomarkers, the test was accurate in 100 percent of cases.

Researchers are expecting to conduct new tests of their early-detection method, using an independent patient cohort. The blood test depends on the presence of the neurodegenerative disease. As a result, it would be a useful approach to assess pre-symptomatic detection.

“Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and the ability to stage the disease through a simple blood test would offer many potential benefits. Patients could delay disease progression through lifestyle adjustments, begin treatment sooner and plan future medical care,” said study authors in a press release.

At the same time, physicians would be able to follow the progress of patients at the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease, who receive treatment or participate in clinical trials. An estimated 1 out of three U.S. seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, said the Alzheimer’s Organization.

The impact of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States: prevalence will continue to increase by mid-century

Every 66 seconds an American develops the neurodegenerative disease. Given its massive impact, it will cost the United States $236 billion within 2016, when also including other types of dementia, said the Alzheimer’s organization.

It mostly develops among seniors who are 65 years old and older. Only 200,000 individuals with the disease in the country are under the age of 65. Scientists calculate that it presence will continue to grow in developed countries.

The United States Census has estimated that those numbers would triple by 2050 when one American would develop the disease every 33 seconds. Numbers of affected people would increase from 5.2 million to 13.8 million.

Source: Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine