New Jersey scientists report they have developed a blood test to detect and diagnose Alzheimer’s disease with unprecedented accuracy.
Researchers say the methodology involves use of human protein microarrays that can detect the presence of specific antibodies in the blood with uncanny accuracy.
The test has a diagnostic sensitivity of 96 percent and a specificity of 92.5 percent and has the potential to spot Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages, years before symptoms such as memory loss, poor judgment or erratic behavior appear.
Researchers say the same test has demonstrated the ability to distinguish Alzheimer’s from Parkinson’s disease, a closely related neurodegenerative disorder.
The research team’s findings may be found online in the journal PLoS ONE.
Development of an accurate test for Alzheimer’s has been an urgent pursuit for scientists as the disease affects nearly 36 million people worldwide, yet there remains only one definitive way to diagnose the disease – the direct examination of brain tissue following the patient’s death.
“There’s a dire need for an accurate, relatively non-invasive and inexpensive diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s,” said Robert Nagele, Ph.D., founder of Durin Technologies, Inc.
“A test that can not only diagnose the disease in individuals showing telltale symptoms, but possibly also detect the disease years before these symptoms appear would make early therapeutic intervention possible.
“This would be a significant breakthrough as pharmaceutical companies are now working feverishly to develop new drugs that can stop or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.”
Nagele says this discovery may have a profound clinical impact and could ultimately be well-suited for inclusion in routine health care, especially if it can also be applied to detection of other diseases.
“Because this method requires only a small blood sample, it avoids the expense and patient discomfort of other proposed Alzheimer’s diagnostic tests such as those involving neuroimaging techniques, more invasive procedures and hospitalization.
“Discovery of other disease-specific autoantibody signatures could also conceivably lead to the development of successful and relatively inexpensive diagnostics for a wide variety of diseases,” he said.
A significant benefit of a test for Alzheimer’s is the ability to rule out the disease, perhaps in a case where individuals are experiencing mild or intermittent memory loss.
In about 20 percent of these cases, the patient’s memory problems result from another condition such as anxiety, depression or a reaction to medication. Ruling out Alzheimer’s will allow appropriate treatment for these conditions.