Alzheimer's blood test 'raises serious ethical concerns'
Published 11/03/2014 | 02:30
THE Alzheimer Society of Ireland has raised serious ethical and moral issues about a new blood test to detect those likely to suffer from the condition.
The Society says that while it welcomes the new findings, there are serious issues to be confronted.
Its chief executive, Gerry Martin, said: "There currently is no blood test available in Ireland which is able to predict the risk of someone developing Alzheimer's or dementia in the future.
"While the Alzheimer Society of Ireland believes that early intervention is an important step in managing dementia, having an early detection test does raise ethical concerns."
He warned that people should be given a choice as to whether they wanted to know if they had a heightened risk of getting the disease.
And he stressed "they should fully understand the outcome of such a test".
Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the UK Alzheimer's Society, agreed.
He said: "Having such a test would be an interesting development, but it also throws up ethical considerations."
The latest research claims a blood test can detect the disease three years before the patient develops symptoms of memory loss.
It could eventually lead to widespread screening in middle-age to identify those most at risk, and give them greater warning of their likelihood of developing the disease.
It may also prompt new research into the causes of the conditions and its treatment.
Medical experts point out that even being able to delay the onset of the debilitating condition would have a dramatic improvement on the lives of those affected.
The study, published by 'Nature' magazine identified 10 molecules in the blood which could be used to predict with 90pc accuracy those who are at increased risk of dementia within a few years.
It is the first investigation of its kind to highlight blood differences between those who have pre-clinical Alzheimer's disease – but who have not as yet developed any symptoms – and others who will not go on to develop the condition.
Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Centre in the US examined 525 healthy participants aged 70 and over, and monitored them for five years.
Mid-way through the re- search, the authors analysed 53 patients who already had one of the conditions and 53 "cognitively normal" people.
They discovered 10 molecules which appeared to reveal the breakdown of neural cell membranes in participants who develop symptoms of cognitive impairment, or Alzheimer's disease.