Scientists have said that a blood test could detect Alzheimer’s over a decade before symptoms begin to show.
The blood test, which looks for signs of brain damage, could also be used to detect multiple sclerosis, stroke, or traumatic injury.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia symptoms include a loss of short and long-term memory, and difficulty with thinking and language.
Similarly, the disease damages the brain and causes dementia: it causes the nerve cells in the brain to disconnect from each other, and as a result, the nerve cells eventually die and brain tissue is lost.
As Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, it means that the symptoms become more pronounced over time.
Alzheimer’s most commonly affects people over 65-years-old, however, in the UK alone, there are over 40,000 people under the age of 65 who have diagnosed dementia.
Dementia affects twice as many women over 65 as it does men, but the majority of dementia is not inherited.
Scientists made the discovery after an experiment, in which 243 people who have a genetic mutation known to trigger early onset Alzheimer’s were tested.
The tests revealed higher levels of a specific protein, which rose as time progressed.
Before the test can be used by doctors, scientists will need to research how much of the protein is normal, and how fast and how much it can rise by before becoming concerning.
The discovery is a step forward in the fight against brain injuries and degenerative brain diseases.
Though there is no current cure for Alzheimers, the blood test could help doctors predict when patients could start showing signs of the disease, and when symptoms will begin.
And, there is hope that, with further testing, the discovery could help determine whether new drugs and medications are working, before symptoms even appear, to ward off Alzheimer’s altogether.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Alzheimer’s Society www.alzheimers.org.uk