Bioscience

Early-diagnosis blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease in development

July 28, 2008

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer] – People with Alzheimer’s face an awkward juncture in the near future. They’ll be able to learn early on whether they have Alzheimer’s disease — even if they can’t do much about it.

With therapies to halt or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease seeming ever more elusive, several blood tests currently in development could determine who has the disease even before symptoms develop or become severe. Researchers say they believe people would use such a test, if only to prepare for a future with the limitations wrought by dementia.”It would be a boon to the field,” says Dr. Ronald C. Petersen, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “Many, many people are at risk due to family history, age, genetic characteristics. But we don’t have a good prediction formula for who will actually get the disease.”

Alzheimer’s disease is extremely difficult to diagnose in its early stages because the symptoms, such as memory problems, can also be attributed to normal aging or a number of other illnesses. Even the appearance of plaque in the brain is not considered a telltale sign of the disease because some older people have plaque but do not suffer from dementia. Doctors and patients need a test that is convenient, accurate, reliable and inexpensive, says Dr. Harold Varmus, the former director of the National Institutes of Health and a member of the Alzheimer