Alzheimer's: Blood Test Identifies Those At-risk for Cognitive Decline

03/10/2014
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The new blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk for progressive cognitive decline; © pan-
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Researchers have discovered and validated a blood test that can predict with greater than 90 percent accuracy if a healthy person will develop mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease within three years.

The study heralds the potential for developing treatment strategies for Alzheimer's at an earlier stage, when therapy would be more effective at slowing or preventing onset of symptoms. It is the first known published report of blood-based biomarkers for preclinical Alzheimer's.

The test identifies 10 lipids, or fats, in the blood that predict disease onset. It could be ready for use in clinical studies in as few as two years and, researchers say, other diagnostic uses are possible.

"Our novel blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk for progressive cognitive decline and can change how patients, their families and treating physicians plan for and manage the disorder," says the study's corresponding author Dr. Howard J. Federoff of Georgetown University Medical Center.

There is no cure or effective treatment for Alzheimer's. Worldwide, about 35.6 million individuals have the disease and, according to the World Health Organization, the number will double every 20 years to 115.4 million people with Alzheimer's by 2050.

Federoff explains there have been many efforts to develop drugs to slow or reverse the progression of Alzheimer's disease, but all of them have failed. He says one reason may be the drugs were evaluated too late in the disease process.

"The preclinical state of the disease offers a window of opportunity for timely disease-modifying intervention," Federoff says. "Biomarkers such as ours that define this asymptomatic period are critical for successful development and application of these therapeutics."

The study included 525 healthy participants aged 70 and older who gave blood samples upon enrolling and at various points in the study. Over the course of the five-year study, 74 participants met the criteria for either mild Alzheimer's disease (AD) or a condition known as amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), in which memory loss is prominent. Of these, 46 were diagnosed upon enrollment and 28 developed aMCI or mild AD during the study (the latter group called converters).

In the study's third year, the researchers selected 53 participants who developed aMCI/AD (including 18 converters) and 53 cognitively normal matched controls for the lipid biomarker discovery phase of the study. The lipids were not targeted before the start of the study, but rather, were an outcome of the study.

A panel of 10 lipids was discovered, which researchers say appears to reveal the breakdown of neural cell membranes in participants who develop symptoms of cognitive impairment or AD. The panel was subsequently validated using the remaining 21 aMCI/AD participants (including 10 converters), and 20 controls. Blinded data were analyzed to determine if the subjects could be characterized into the correct diagnostic categories based solely on the 10 lipids identified in the discovery phase.

MEDICA.de; Source: Georgetown University Medical Center