Groundbreaking new research out of Germany claims to be able to spot telltale signs of Alzheimer’s disease 17 years before symptoms appear via a blood test.
Of course, more “unknowns” surround the disease than “knowns,” so whether the blood test is more of a warning light or a true fortune-teller remains to be seen. Scientists who created the sensor test say they hope it will be used as a screening tool in the elderly. With 17 years notice, hopefully the elderly with severe warning signs can begin to right the ship and avoid the heartbreaking disease altogether.
Mainstream medicine will use the indicators as an excuse to write more prescriptions; and in some cases, early pill regiments in patients may make all the difference. Changing lifestyle and dietary habits may make a significant difference as well. And if a blood test can shake up a person’s life in a positive way, then bring it on.
The gadget works by sniffing out where the protein amyloid-beta, which can help identify the disease, has folded and lost its original shape. These same proteins also may play a part in other degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s. Again, though, “settled science” surrounding these proteins is shaky at best (and an outright fabricated falsehood at worse). But any wake-up call beckoning one towards a healthier life is a good thing, even if it is based on faulty evidence from the jump.
If the plaque is, indeed, the primary culprit behind Alzheimer’s disease, then the blood test will be a home run
The German academics who authored the study hope the breakthrough will allow more Alzheimer’s drugs to be developed in the future. They also hope it will allow existing drugs to work better.
Clinical trials for Alzheimer’s drugs have been failing by the dozen because plaque tests used in them do not indicate the disease in time. Something about the disease does irreversible damage to brain tissue, and the only distinguishing factor of post mortem diseased brains versus healthy brains is the plaque involved. Doctors, therefore, assume that the plaque creates the disease; but that’s yet to be proven.
The theory for the blood test is simple: the new sensor flags up the misfolding proteins, which cause the plaques to appear, meaning the disease can be caught earlier.
The study took place over the last two decades using blood tests frozen from the turn of the millennium.
“Our goal is to determine the risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia at a later stage with a simple blood test even before the toxic plaques can form in the brain, in order to ensure that a therapy can be initiated in time,” said lead study author Professor Klaus Gerwert, of Ruhr University Bochum, Germany.
Gerwert added: “The vision is that the disease can be stopped in a symptom-free stage before irreversible damage occurs.”
The study’s first author Léon Beyer, who is a Ph.D. student at the same university said: “The exact timing of therapeutic intervention will become even more important in the future.
“The success of future drug trials will depend on the study participants being correctly characterized and not yet showing irreversible damage at study entry.”