Health: A new tool could accurately predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease within the next four years

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A new tool can accurately predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease within four years of someone developing the disease

  • The new approach was developed by experts from the Swedish University of Lund
  • It includes just a simple blood test and a 10-minute series of cognitive tests
  • In a study of 883 participants, it turned out to be correct 90 percent of the time
  • This was more successful than clinical assessments by specialists
  • Unlike other diagnostic methods, it is fast and does not require expensive technology

A new tool — using just a blood test and a rapid battery of cognitive tests — can predict with 90 percent accuracy whether someone will develop Alzheimer’s within four years.

Developed by experts at the Swedish University of Lund, the approach has the potential to speed up diagnoses while eliminating the need for expensive, specialized equipment.

Right now, about 20-30 percent of Alzheimer’s patients are misdiagnosed in specialist care, let alone primary care, the team noted.

A new tool — using just a blood test (pictured) and a rapid battery of cognitive tests — can predict with 90 percent accuracy whether someone will develop Alzheimer's within four years

A new tool — using just a blood test (pictured) and a rapid battery of cognitive tests — can predict with 90 percent accuracy whether someone will develop Alzheimer’s within four years

“Our algorithm is based on a blood analysis of phosphylated rope and a risk gene for Alzheimer’s disease, as well as testing memory and executive ability,” said neurologist Sebastian Palmqvist of Lund University and Skthene University Hospital.

‘We have developed an online tool to calculate at an individual level the chance that someone with mild memory problems will develop Alzheimer’s within four years.’

In their study, Professor Palmqvist and colleagues examined 340 people with mild memory problems recruited for the Swedish BioFINDER study of neurodegenerative diseases and 543 people from North America.

The team found that their combination of relatively simple tests — a blood test and three cognitive tests that take just 10 minutes to complete — could predict whether a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease in the next four years with 90 percent accuracy.

The blood tests, the team explained, measure for both the Alzheimer’s risk gene and a variant of the tau protein associated with the disease.

According to the researchers, the prognostic algorithm even managed to outperform the clinical ratings as specialized physicians met with the patients during the course of the study.

A major advantage of the new testing program is that it can be performed in those clinics that do not have access to the specialized equipment.

Current highly regarded diagnostic methods for evaluating Alzheimer’s disease include spinal fluid testing or examination with a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) camera – both of which are expensive to perform and available only in select clinics.

‘Currently, the algorithm has been tested on patients who have been examined in memory clinics,’ says Professor Palmqvist.

“We hope it can also be validated and used in primary care and also make a difference in developing countries where resources for specialized health care are more limited.”

The researchers also noted that their diagnostic tool has the potential to aid in the development of new drug-based therapies, by identifying the right people to participate in clinical trials.

“When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, it’s difficult to recruit the right people for drug research in a viable and cost-effective way,” explains author and neurologist Oskar Hansson, also of Lund University.

‘The algorithm makes it possible to recruit people with Alzheimer’s at an early stage of their disease.’

‘New drugs have a greater chance of slowing down the development of the disease.’

The study’s full findings were published in the journal Naturopathy.

WHAT IS ALZHEIMER?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain in which the build-up of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.

This disrupts the transmitters that transmit messages and causes the brain to shrink.

More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the 6th leading cause of death, and more than 1 million Britons have it.

WHAT IS HAPPENING?

When brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost.

That includes memory, orientation, and the ability to think and reason.

The course of the disease is slow and gradual.

On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live ten to 15 years.

EARLY SYMPTOMS:

  • Loss of short-term memory
  • disorientation
  • Behavioral changes
  • mood swings
  • Difficulty handling or calling money

LATER SYMPTOMS:

  • Severe amnesia, forgetting close relatives, familiar objects or places
  • Becoming anxious and frustrated with the inability to understand the world, leading to aggressive behavior
  • Eventually loses the ability to walk
  • May have problems eating
  • The majority ultimately need 24-hour care

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

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