An international team of researchers has developed a blood test that can detect Alzheimer's disease (AD) with an accuracy level of over 96 percent. The test has been developed from Chinese patient data. To diagnose a person with AD, doctors until now had primarily relied on cognitive tests. Besides this, brain imaging and lumbar puncture were the other two commonly used procedures to detect and understand the changes AD caused in a person's mind. Not only are these procedures expensive and invasive but also not available in many countries.
However, a team led by Professor Nancy IP, Vice-President, Research and Development, Hong Kong University of Science And Technology (HKUST), developed a new test that could identify 19 of the 429 plasma proteins associated with AD. "With the advancement of ultrasensitive blood-based protein detection technology, we have developed a simple, non-invasive, and accurate diagnostic solution for AD, which will greatly facilitate population-scale screening and staging of the disease," Prof. Nancy IP said, in a statement.
The team has developed a scoring system that distinguishes patients with AD from healthy ones. Not just that, it can also help identify people in the early, intermediate, and late stages of AD. The scoring system can then be used to monitor the progression of the disease, the team said, adding that these findings may well pave the way for more therapeutic treatments of the disease.
Besides the researchers at the HKUST, the work was carried out in collaboration with researchers at University College London and clinicians in local hospitals including the Prince of Wales Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Researchers and scientists used the proximity extension assay (PEA) — an advanced ultrasensitive and high-throughput protein measurement technology — to study levels of over 1,000 proteins in the plasma of AD patients in Hong Kong. The study has been published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD), which entails dysfunction and loss of brain cells, affects over 50 million people. Among its symptoms are progressive memory loss as well as impaired movement, reasoning, and judgment. And even though patients seek medical attention only when they have memory problems, AD starts affecting the brain at least 10-20 years before symptoms surface.