A joint research project headed up by a team from the University of Cardiff has led to the development of a simple blood test that’s able to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease with 85% accuracy. The project was funded by the Alzheimer’s Society and also involved researchers from King’s College London and the University of Oxford.
During their research, the team studied blood samples taken from 292 people who were already exhibiting the earliest signs of the memory impairments associated with Alzheimer’s. By analysing these samples of blood, the team were able to identify a set of biomarkers that could predict whether or not someone would develop the disease. As Alzheimer’s is known to currently affect around 520,000 people in the UK, with numbers set to rise as the population ages, it’s vital that researchers find new ways to diagnose the disease as early as possible in order to find and deliver new treatments before the damage done becomes irreversible.
As part of their analysis the researchers measured a large number of proteins found in a part of the immune system associated with the increased inflammation that’s implicated in neurological disorders. After one year, almost a quarter of the participants in the study had progressed to Alzheimer’s. Three of the proteins in the blood samples of these participants had significant differences compared to the blood from the individuals who hadn’t developed the disease.
This research has shown that it is possible to forecast whether people with mild memory impairment will develop the disease over the next couple of years. The team now hope to expand their work and develop a simple blood test that can be used to identify the probability of developing Alzheimer’s disease in older people with mild memory problems. The findings from this project will be used as a basis for a much larger study which is being funded by the Wellcome Trust and which involves researchers from a number of UK universities, together with pharmaceutical companies. They hope to replicate the findings and thus refine the test.
The results of the research were published in the online Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.