HEALTH

Alzheimer’s Blood Tests Are Now within Reach

Alzheimer’s is one of the most devastating neurodegenerative diseases. A new blood test has shown remarkable promise in the detection of Alzheimer’s and the ability to differentiate between people who have the disease and those who do not.

The good news continues as the test being developed has the ability to detect Alzheimer’s in people who are genetically predisposed to the disease as early as 20 years before the disease manifests.

How Alzheimer’s Is Diagnosed Now

Unfortunately, there is no definitive diagnosis for the disease, as what we have now is a symptoms assessment, which includes neurological and physical exams. These mainly help to eliminate other diseases such as Parkinson’s and illnesses such as dementia.

Brain imaging is also used to detect brain changes that can help find abnormalities caused by the disease. The challenge is that other forms of brain abnormalities resemble those caused by Alzheimer’s, making it even harder to diagnose.

Sadly, Alzheimer’s can only be definitively diagnosed through a microscopic examination of the brain after death to detect plaques and tangles.

Alzheimer’s Blood Tests

A widely available and acceptable blood test would change the way Alzheimer’s is diagnosed and treated. The new blood test aims to detect the presence of tangles and plaques through the detection of phospho-tau217.

One of the proteins researchers have found in tangles. The sensitive test could provide a correct indication of whether tangles and plaques are present in the blood and therefore be the definitive diagnosis for Alzheimer’s.

One of the reasons why this test is so exciting is that doctors and diagnosticians have had problems in the past differentiating between Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Also, PET scans and spinal taps detect elevated levels of the amyloid protein.

This protein forms plaques in Alzheimer’s patient’s brains and although their detection can help diagnose Alzheimer’s, it is not often reliable as not everyone with elevated amounts of the protein gets the disease.

The detection of phospho-tau217 in the blood would not only be an important diagnosis and detection tool, it would also transform the way we study Alzheimer’s. Researchers say that it is still early.

But the test can be improved upon so that it becomes available in clinical settings and will likely become the most important diagnostic and detection tool for the disease.

These tests are also an important breakthrough because they will help better screen participants for clinical trials when it comes to the development of Alzheimer’s medication.

The problem researchers and doctors have been having for decades is that the process of finding participants who fit the criteria or such clinical trials takes years and is very expensive. The screening methods are also very invasive as they require PET brain scans and spinal taps.

The Development of the Test

The study that came up with this test was done on 1402 participants from the United States, Sweden and Colombia. The test had better results than MRI scans, which are one of the primary diagnostic tools right now; performed as well as spinal taps and PET scans; and the tests were almost as accurate as autopsies done on people suspected to have Alzheimer’s.

The Way Forward

The next step is doing the test on an even more diverse group of participants, which includes people of diverse racial and ethnic origins. The results will have to be replicated in these new groups for the study and tests to be deemed usable. The test will also need to be standardised so its result can be replicated and analysed in laboratories.

Medical researchers and lots of healthcare professionals will be involved in the process. The development of this test will also help develop standards for how future tests for similar diseases are developed.

This is an exciting field that will continue to grow. If working in such a field is what you want to do, you should consider taking medicine undergraduate courses, which can be followed by a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine. You can apply for one of these undergraduate options after you find the right university.

It Is Not a Cure

Although scientists are very excited about this development, they insist that this is not a cure for Alzheimer’s. However, they all agree that it would be impossible to develop an Alzheimer’s cure without the ability to study it, and these new blood tests are the perfect tools to do just that. Since they are an accurate and relatively cheap alternative to other methods, these blood tests are a remarkable breakthrough.

Another potential and unwanted outcome of the blood test is that it would confuse people who have emotional and ethical dilemmas about getting the test. Although the test would be widely available, we know there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and there likely will not be for a few decades, so it would be very difficult for these people to decide whether to get the test and find out whether they have an incurable disease or not.

The development of a blood test for Alzheimer’s is one of the most exciting medical developments in the last few decades. Everyone in the medical community will be standing by to see what the next steps in this process produce.

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