Now, a Blood Test Can Predict the Onset of Alzheimer's Well in Advance - The New Indian Express

Now, a Blood Test Can Predict the Onset of Alzheimer's Well in Advance

Published: 17th March 2014 07:38 AM

Last Updated: 17th March 2014 08:48 AM

Researchers have come up with a blood test that predicts whether healthy individuals will develop Alzheimer’s even before they show symptoms.

This week’s edition of Nature Medicine published a study led by neurologist Howard Federoff of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC.

The preliminary study involved 525 people aged over 70. Dr Federoff and his team tested the participants’ cognitive and memory skills and collected their blood samples once a year for five years.

The researchers found that levels of 10 types of lipids (fatty acids) are consistently low in people who went on to develop Alzheimer’s in later years.

If validated in a larger sample, the test could be relied on to predict the onset of the disease more accurately than expensive techniques like Positron Emission Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans and spinal taps.

Dementia Burdens Healthcare

“Dementia, a type of which is Alzheimer’s, is a growing problem in the world and even if it can be delayed by about five years, there will be a huge difference in the burden on healthcare,” said Dr Suvarna Alladi of the Department of Neurology at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad.

She is known for her studies which established that people who know more than one language are less likely to develop dementia.

According to a 2010 report published by Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India, New Delhi, up to 14 million people in India, aged between 75 and 90 and above, will suffer from dementia by 2050. In Bangalore, there are about 7.5 lakh elderly people. They need healthcare, social support and finances.

Biomarkers Hold Potential

Dr Dhanya Raveendranathan, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Dr B R Ambedkar Medical College in the city, says research on Alzheimer’s, based on biomarkers, is progressing rapidly.

Biomarkers are indicators identified from human body samples like blood, body tissues, cerebrospinal fluid, genes, etc., which predict the occurrence of a disease. The study of biomarkers is important in Alzheimer’s because the disease has no satisfactory treatment, Raveendranathan said.

“In that context, identifying potential biomarkers can be useful to predict the occurrence of the disease. However, at this point, biomarkers are reliably used in research settings and their use in routine clinical settings is not fully validated,” she said.

Lauding Dr Federoff’s study, she emphasised the need for such studies to be replicated in a larger population to derive meaningful results in a routine clinic scenario.

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