A Blood Test for Alzheimer’s?

8057597193_aca7e47999Imagine if doctors could take a simple blood test to determine if an individual is at risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementia. This may be a reality one day soon, as Australian scientists have made advances in developing a screening test for detecting Alzheimer’s early on, reported Science Daily.

Australia, like the United States, has an aging population. And with a large number of seniors comes the ills of old age — namely debilitating chronic diseases that will be treated by an army of doctors, nurses, care facilities and caregivers alike. Among the many chronic conditions, dementia has proven to be the most costly in the U.S., with direct costs topping out at $109 billion for 2010. As such, it’s encouraging news that a simple blood test could potentially help detect the dementia years before any symptoms occur, which is critical to better treating the disease as well as keeping costs lower in the long run thanks to preventative care.

How the Alzheimer’s blood test works

Researchers from the Australian Imaging and Biomarkers Lifestyle Study of Aging (AIBL) looked at blood-based biological markers associated with the build up of amyloid beta, a toxic protein found in the brain which can appear years before the occurrence of any symptoms and brain damage — the latter of which is irreversible. The AIBL team also showed that amyloid beta levels become abnormal at upwards of 17 years before any symptoms of dementia occur, giving doctors ample time to start treatment that slows the progression of the disease.

“We hope our continued research will lead to the development of a low cost, minimally invasive population based screening test for Alzheimer’s in the next five to ten years,” Dr. Samantha Burnham from CSIRO‘s Preventative Health Flagship told Science Daily.”A blood test would be the ideal first stage to help identify many more people at risk before a diagnosis is confirmed more specialised testing.”

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