It’s been a long time coming, but it looks like a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease is finally here. When testing those with mild memory loss (a possible warning sign of Alzheimer’s), the blood test can predict with 87 per cent accuracy whether or not that person will develop Alzheimer’s disease within 12 months.
The test is the result of 10 years’ work by the joint efforts of scientists from King’s College in London and UK company Proteome Sciences. They were able to identify 10 proteins in the blood which could predict the onset of Alzheimer’s with a reasonable level of accuracy.
Currently there is no way to test for Alzheimer’s. This is problematic, as possible cures can only be tested on those suffering from the later stages of the disease. This means that cures and treatments are being tested on already damaged brains. One of the main reasons this blood test is so exciting is that it could allow scientists to test preventative treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, long before it causes major damage to the brain. This could be the answer to finally developing a prevention, treatment or cure for this debilitating disease.
As Professor Simon Lovestone from King’s College commented, “Alzheimer’s begins to affect the brain many years before patients are diagnosed with the disease. Many of our drug trials fail because by the time patients are given the drugs, the brain has already been too severely affected.”
The blood test is expected to be available within the next two years, and could cost around $180–$550. Before it goes on the market, however, researchers say it is important they attempt to improve the accuracy of the test, in order to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis, as currently 10 per cent of those tested will receive a false positive.
Another concern being raised is the ethical issue of telling someone that they have a disease which is currently both untreatable and incurable.
You can find out more at www.TheGuardian.com
What do you think? Would you consider being tested if the accuracy improved? Or do you think that knowing you have an incurable disease is not worth the extra preparation time which a test might offer?