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A new blood test could help detect Alzheimer’s earlier

Published Dec 28th, 2022 6:15PM EST
A scientist tests blood in a lab
Image: filin174/Adobe

Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, eating away at the memories that we hold dear. While we have seen a lot of success in recent years in finding ways to slow the progression of the disease, finding better ways to detect Alzheimer’s earlier is still one of the biggest priorities for many scientists. Now, a new blood test could pave the way for cheaper, quicker diagnosis.

As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease affects more than six million Americans alone, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. But, diagnosing this terrible disease is still challenging, especially in its earlier stages. In order to make a proper diagnosis, current guidelines recommend three distinct markers be found within the body.

The problem, though, is that finding proof of these markers is painful and challenging. It often requires a lumbar puncture or even expensive brain imaging. While we have seen a lot of success with detecting Alzheimer’s in a single brain scan, it doesn’t change the cost of the scans. Based on new research, a blood test could provide a cheaper and more accessible diagnosis tool.

blood test could help detect alzheimer's earlier than brain scans and for cheaper
An MRI showing Alzheimer’s disease in the brain. Image source: Atthapon/Adobe

One of the biggest challenges facing this new way to detect Alzheimer’s early is the fact that detecting nerve cell damage in the brain with a blood test is difficult. That’s why Professor Thomas Karikari at the University of Pittsburgh and his colleagues have focused on creating an antibody-based blood test that can detect brain-derived tau. These specific tau proteins are tied directly to Alzheimer’s disease.

As such, being able to detect them through a blood test could make it easier to diagnose Alzheimer’s in the earlier stages of the disease, without costing patients a small fortune in the process. This disease can already cost patients a ton just to try to slow down. But, if you can’t even afford to detect it, you’re starting the battle at a huge disadvantage.

That’s why having better systems to help detect Alzheimer’s early is such a big deal for researchers like Karikari. Karikari says that he hopes that by monitoring the levels of brain-derived tau found in the blood, we can improve clinical trials for Alzheimer’s treatments and finally give some hope to people finding this terrible disease.

In the meantime, though, some scientists say that taking up new hobbies and learning new things can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s by keeping the brain active and evolving.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices. Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.