Blood test predicts Alzheimer’s years before the first symptoms

First of all, you not longer have to struggle with words, remember, eventually they sink into Forget: In Germany, about 1.7 million people today are considered to be suffering from dementia. Approximately two-thirds of them Alzheimer’s disease, the most common Form of dementia. Because life expectancy is increasing, there will be in 2050, an estimated three million dementia patients.

Researchers have now developed a Test, which indicates the years before the first symptoms of a possible Alzheimer’s disease, they report in the journal “Nature Medicine”. The Test measures certain proteins, resulting in the death of nerve cells.

“Normally, such proteins are degraded in the blood and are therefore not very good as a Marker,” says Mathias Jucker, German centre for Neurodegenerative diseases (DZNE) and the main author of the study. A little piece of a so-called neuro-filaments, however, showed to be surprisingly resistant. It enriched already in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients, long before the first symptoms occurred.

Data from more than 400 people, evaluated

This is precisely the protein substance of the blood test is based. The study goes back to data and samples of 405 persons, which were collected in the framework of an international research network – the “Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network” (DIAN) -. The network studied families in which Alzheimer’s disease occurs in middle age. On the basis of genetic analyses, researchers can say quite accurately predict whether and when a family is ill member. In the study, experts from the Hertie-Institute for clinical brain research (HIH), the Tübingen University clinic and the Washington University School of Medicine were involved.

The international research team looked at how the people involved are the Filament concentration developed in the long term. The result: Up to 16 years before the onset of dementia symptoms, the researchers noted significant changes in the blood of patients. “It is not the absolute value of the Filament concentration, but their temporal development, which is really meaningful and to predict the further course of the disease,” says Jucker.

In addition, Tests showed that the concentration of the neuro-filaments is an indicator for the death of nerve cells. “We were able to make predictions about the loss of brain mass and cognitive impairments, which are then joined, two years later, in fact,” says Jucker.

The Test is alone sufficient for a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, because the filaments accumulate also in other diseases in the blood, for example, in the case of Multiple sclerosis. In addition, it is unclear whether the proteins can also say an Alzheimer’s disease previously, if there is no family history.

“The Test shows very exactly the course of the disease and is thus an excellent tool to explore in clinical trials of new Alzheimer’s therapies,” says Jucker. The brain disease is so far incurable. Currently available dementia medications only slow down the progression of the disease, you can’t stop.

Dangerous Protein Deposits

Already two decades before the dementia begins to change the brain in Alzheimer’s patients. The protein pieces of Beta-Amyloid to accumulate, for example. These protein deposits are considered to be the main cause of Alzheimer’s, because they destroy nerve cells, trigger inflammation, and the signal transmission can interfere between the nerve cells. Scientists had developed a drug that these proteins should be re-dissolve. However, it could not stop the dementia so far (read more here).

“The fact that there is still no effective therapy against Alzheimer’s disease, probably because the current therapies much too late,” says Jucker. In such cases, the blood could help test.

Outside of clinical trials, the Test should not be applied, however. Firstly, because it provides no reliable diagnosis. The other would probably just want to know the least Affected years in advance that they will develop Alzheimer’s – at least as long as there is no cure.