Researchers in the United Kingdom believe they are one step closer to developing a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease after identifying a set of 10 proteins in the blood that can predict the onset of the disease.
Their study, published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association and led by King’s College London and a proteomics company, Proteome Sciences, analyzed data on more than 1,000 people (476 with Alzheimer’s disease, 220 with mild cognitive impairment and 452 elderly controls without dementia) from three international studies. Investigators analyzed blood samples for 26 proteins previously shown to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and a sub-group of 476 people across all three groups also had magnetic resonance imaging brain scans.
Researchers found that 16 of the 26 proteins were strongly associated with brain shrinkage in either mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. Through a second series of tests, they established that a combination of 10 of these proteins could predict progression from mild impairment to Alzheimer’s within a year with an accuracy of 87 percent.
“Alzheimer’s begins to affect the brain many years before patients are diagnosed with the disease,” says Simon Lovestone, PhD, senior author of the study. “Many of our drug trials fail because, by the time patients are given the drugs, the brain has already been too severely affected. A simple blood test could help us identify patients at a much earlier stage to take part in new trials and hopefully develop treatments which could prevent the progression of the disease.”
The scientists now will try to validate their findings, Lovestone says, to see whether they can improve accuracy, reduce the risk of misdiagnosis and develop a reliable test for use by healthcare professionals. Ian Pike, PhD, chief operating officer at Proteome Sciences and a co-author of the paper, says that the company is in the process of choosing commercial partners to combine the protein biomarkers in a blood test for the global market.
Related article: Alzheimer's blood test could be ready in two years, researchers say