Researchers have discovered 10 proteins in blood that might be able to predict Alzheimer's, and even form the basis for a blood test that could diagnose the disease before symptoms start.
In a study published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, researchers from King's College London were able to accurately predict Alzheimer's disease nearly nine times out of 10. More than 1,100 people participated in the study, and researchers found that 16 of the 26 proteins associated with Alzheimer's were closely tied to the brain shrinkage found in a person with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's. Researchers ran more tests, and found that 10 proteins could be markers that mild cognitive impairment will develop into Alzheimer's.
Looking at these protein levels, researchers were able to correctly predict Alzheimer's disease in 87 percent of the cases. The goal now is to use the information gleaned from the study to create a blood test that could diagnose Alzheimer's early, when medications should have the biggest effect, and treat it before symptoms even begin.
"You take a drug, and in effect you would have the clinical symptoms prevented — even if the disease has already started in your brain," Oxford's Simon Loveston, the study's senior author, told CBS News. Such a breakthrough would be huge: 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer's, and the rates are expected to triple by 2050. Every year, an estimated $215 billion is spent in the U.S. on Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.