A recent study conducted in Sweden has revealed that a commercial blood test may be just as accurate as standard lumbar punctures in detecting Alzheimer’s disease. The test focuses on detecting p-tau217, a form of the protein tau, which is considered a hallmark protein of Alzheimer’s. This breakthrough could potentially provide a less invasive and more accessible method for diagnosing the disease.
The findings of this study have been widely welcomed by experts in the field. Over the past year, significant advancements have been made in the development of blood-based Alzheimer’s tests. Therefore, studies like this one that explore the accuracy and reliability of these tests are crucial, according to Dr. Sheona Scales, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Currently, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is primarily based on symptoms such as memory or cognitive issues. However, gold standard diagnostic methods, such as PET scans or lumbar punctures, are rarely used and only 2% of individuals with dementia receive a dementia diagnosis through these methods. Improving the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is becoming increasingly important as new therapies for the disease are on the horizon. Early, accurate diagnosis will be crucial for patients to become eligible for these potential groundbreaking drugs, as stated by Dr. Richard Oakley, Associate Director of Research and Innovation at Alzheimer’s Society.
The study demonstrated that the levels of p-tau217 in the blood were consistent with the levels of amyloid and tau proteins observed in brain scans and lumbar punctures. Before blood tests can become standard diagnostic tools, they must be proven to be at least as sensitive and accurate as the gold-standard tests. Nevertheless, Dr. Scales believes that the blood test has enormous potential to transform the diagnosis of people with suspected Alzheimer’s.
One of the most promising aspects of this study is the ability to group individuals based on their likelihood of having Alzheimer’s. By utilizing a cut-off threshold, the researchers divided participants into three groups: those likely to have Alzheimer’s, those unlikely to have the disease, and an intermediate group requiring further testing with conventional methods like lumbar punctures or PET scans. This approach could potentially reduce the demand for follow-up tests by around 80%.
While this study represents a significant step forward, there are still unanswered questions. Real-world applications and performance of blood tests in diverse patient populations need to be further examined. Additionally, regulatory approval is necessary before these tests can be used in healthcare settings, according to Dr. Scales.
To address these issues and promote the implementation of new blood tests in the National Health Service (NHS), the Blood Biomarker Challenge was launched in 2023. Led by Alzheimer’s Research UK, Alzheimer’s Society, and the NIHR, this project aims to work with renowned researchers to pilot the use of advanced blood tests that can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease earlier and with increased accuracy.
Ultimately, a quick and accurate diagnosis is crucial for individuals affected by Alzheimer’s, bringing us one step closer to finding a cure for dementia, asserts Dr. Scales. The promising results of this study offer hope for improved diagnostic methods and better outcomes for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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