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A blood test to detect Alzheimer's edges nearer

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Conversely, as life expectancy continues to climb with advances in medicine, more people are now at risk for Alzheimer's disease. The brain-deteriorating disease usually strikes the elderly and seriously impairs memory and motor function. Alzheimer's is usually diagnosed after the fact with brain scans and cognition tests. However, a new blood test to determine if someone has an inclination to the condition may soon be in the offing.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As published in the journal Genome Biology, a new test showed differences in the tiny fragments of genetic material floating in the blood could be used to identify patients. The test was found to be accurate 93 percent of the time in trials on 202 people.

Alzheimer's traditionally starts long before symptoms appear. It's believed that future treatments will need to be given before large parts of the brain are destroyed. This will require new ways of testing for the condition.


The team at the Saarland University, in Germany, analyzed 140 microRNAs, or fragments of genetic code in patients with Alzheimer's disease and in healthy people. Scientists found 12 microRNAs in the blood which were present in markedly different levels in people with Alzheimer's. These became the basis of their test.


Early trials showed it was successful and was "able to distinguish with high diagnostic accuracies between Alzheimer's disease patients and healthy" people.


Research to improve accuracy and to see whether it would work in the clinic will be necessary before the test would be considered as a way of diagnosing patients.


"This is an interesting approach to studying changes in blood in Alzheimer's and suggests that microRNAs could be playing a role in the disease," Dr. Eric Karran, from the charity Alzheimer's Research U.K. says. 


"The findings highlight the importance of continuing research efforts to understand the contribution of microRNAs to Alzheimer's, but the translation of this into a blood test for Alzheimer's in the clinic is still some way off.


"A blood test to help detect Alzheimer's could be a useful addition to a doctor's diagnostic armory, but such a test must be well validated before it's considered for use. We need to see these findings confirmed in larger samples and more work is needed to improve the test's ability to distinguish Alzheimer's from other neurological conditions."

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