Early blood test could be first step in developing treatments to halt or slow Alzheimer's disease

July 29, 2014

In March of this year, a team of Georgetown University scientists published research showing that, for the first time ever, a blood test has the potential to predict Alzheimer’s disease before patients start showing symptoms. Yesterday, a late-breaking session at the 2014 AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in Chicago expanded upon this groundbreaking research and discussed why it could be the key to curing this devastating illness.

The research team led by Howard Federoff, MD, PhD, took cognitively healthy adults age 70 and older and measured the levels of 10 lipids found in the blood to identify, with 90% accuracy, which study group participants would develop cognitive impairment over a 2–3 year period. If this 10 -lipid test is validated in larger studies, it could help researchers to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s that halt or slow the disease before it even begins. A blood test would also be easier to perform than current Alzheimer’s tests that use brain imaging or hard-to-collect cerebrospinal fluid, meaning that the Federoff team’s test could be used for population-wide Alzheimer’s screening.

Amrita Cheema, PhD, one of the main investigators on Federoff’s team, gave an in-depth lecture on the test’s significance, the science behind it, and the research techniques used to develop it in the July 28 AACC session, “Lipidomics: A Powerful Approach to Identify Pre-clinical Memory Impairment in Older Adults.”

“This discovery is a potentially enormous breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s,” says AACC CEO Janet B. Kreizman. “It also demonstrates how laboratory medicine helps patients achieve better health—by not only ensuring that patients receive timely and appropriate treatment, but also by enabling researchers to develop effective treatments in the first place.” Watch a video of researchers discussing the test.

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