A Blood Test to Predict Alzheimer’s Disease: Is It Possible?

By the time symptoms appear, treatment is less effective.

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Alzheimer’s disease is a serious concern for many Americans. About 5.8 million Americans live with this dementia, and over 16 million friends and family members work as unpaid caregivers for their loved ones, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

One of the things that makes Alzheimer’s disease so devastating is that by the time symptoms appear, it’s already too late for treatment. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include inhibited memory, altered behavior, and reduced cognition. As Alzheimer’s progresses, patients may also lose their ability to communicate or complete basic daily tasks, like getting dressed or bathing.

But there’s hope for the future: Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, are working on a blood test that could potentially predict Alzheimer’s disease decades before symptoms appear, thus allowing those at risk to begin treatment earlier and prevent or alter the course of the disease.

About the Predictive Blood Test

The blood test works by measuring levels of amyloid beta in the brain, which is a protein associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. When high levels of amyloid beta accumulate in clumps in the brain, it damages neurons and may eventually result in Alzeimer’s disease.

How well does it work? The results of their study, which was published August 2019 in Neurology journal, found that the blood test predicted Alzheimer’s disease with 94 percent accuracy when considering other Alzheimer’s risk factors.

And the best part: The blood test could predict the onset of Alzheimer’s up to two decades before symptoms appear, allowing for earlier treatment.

The Future of Alzheimer’s Treatment

While this blood test can potentially predict Alzheimer’s disease in the future, treatments to prevent this dementia are still being tested. In other words, it might still be years before this dementia-preventing process is ready. 

That said, the blood test still offers hope for patients, families, and doctors alike. If it works as planned, numbers of Alzheimer’s disease may start to drop.