Blood test for dementia could help halt disease
A BLOOD test for Alzheimer's capable of predicting whether a person will develop dementia has been developed in a breakthrough hailed by campaigners.
The test could ultimately lead to successful treatments that would halt or even prevent the disease, scientists said.
The research found that biomarkers in the blood could be used to forecast whether a person would develop Alzheimer's disease within three years with a 90pc level of accuracy.
Charities said last night that the findings from the American trial were encouraging.
However, they also warned of ethical dilemmas and said patients must be given a choice about whether they wanted to receive potentially devastating news about their future.
Jeremy Hunt, Britain's health secretary, told an international summit on dementia last month that the development of such tests could constitute "a massive step forward" in the battle against the disease.
Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "This is a really welcome development – it takes us a step closer to something that could impact on the lives of thousands of people with dementia."
The research, published in the journal 'Nature Medicine', identified 10 molecules in the blood that could be used to predict with at least 90pc accuracy whether people went on to develop mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's.
It is the first study to show differences in biomarkers in the blood between those who went on to suffer the disease, and those who remained "cognitively normal".
Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington DC said blood tests to identify those likely to develop dementia could be used in major clinical trials within two years.
Existing drugs for Alzheimer's disease work best if given early, and can lessen the symptoms, but do not slow overall progression of disease.
Scientists believe the best hope of finding a breakthrough treatment that can slow or reverse progression of the condition may come if drugs can be given long before patients show signs of disease.
Professor Howard Federoff, one of the study's authors, said that being able to predict the disease before it was symptomatic could offer a "window of opportunity" that could be critical to developing effective drugs to combat the condition before it took hold.
Researchers said the results were "a major step forward" towards introducing large-scale screening to identify at-risk individuals, and test possible treatments.(© Daily Telegraph, London)