The day when a simple blood test can diagnose Alzheimer's disease may not be far away.
At the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2019 held in Los Angeles on July 14-18, scientists from a number of countries published new results on using blood tests as a tool to screen for possible signs of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
Some used blood tests to measure the level of abnormal versions of amyloid protein, which forms plaques in the brain that contribute to Alzheimer's, according to a press release at the conference's website.
In one case, the blood test result seems 88 percent accurate at indicating Alzheimer's risks, according to the research team led by Dr. Akinori Nakamura of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Obu, Japan.
At the conference, Nakamura and colleagues said results of their study which analyzed the abnormal protein in blood closely matched that of current diagnostic tools, such as brain scans and spinal fluid tests.
"We found that the plasma biomarker can detect earlier stages of amyloid deposition, even before dementia symptoms are apparent," Nakamura said in the press release.
"Our results suggest that the plasma biomarker may be useful in screening people who are at risk for Alzheimer's. This can facilitate clinical trials for Alzheimer's therapies, and also accelerate studies to investigate the effects of non-drug interventions, risk management, and lifestyles on Alzheimer's progression," he added.
In another experiment, Abdul Hye of King's College London looked at neurofilament light, a biomarker of nerve damage in blood and spinal fluid, and found "for the first time" that neurofilament light on its own is able to distinguish several neurodegenerative conditions when compared with healthy controls.
Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia, and Alzheimer's disease is the most common form that may contribute to 60 percent to 70 percent of the cases, according to the World Health Organization.
There is no treatment currently available to cure dementia or to alter its progressive course.
"There is a great need for simple, reliable, inexpensive, non-invasive and easily available diagnostic tools for Alzheimer's," Maria C. Carrillo, chief science officer of Alzheimer's Association, said in the press release.
"Families facing Alzheimer's now and in the future would benefit greatly from simple and widely accessible diagnostic tools that enable accurate diagnosis, earlier in the disease process, allowing for important care and planning," she said.
Although these new testing technologies are still at the experimental stage, researchers are hopeful that they could be applied to public health in the near future.