When doctors need to confirm an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, they often turn to a combination of brain imaging and cell analysis. Both have their drawbacks. The latter involves a lumbar puncture, an invasive and painful procedure more commonly known as a lumbar puncture. A doctor will insert a needle into the lower back to extract a sample of the patient’s cerebrospinal fluid. A lab technician then tests the sample for signs of progressive nerve cell loss and excessive buildup of amyloid and tau proteins. MRI scans are less invasive, but they are often expensive and accessibility is an issue; not all communities have access to technology.
The second best tool for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is a blood test. While some can detect abnormal numbers of tau proteins, they are less effective at spotting the telltale signs of neurodegeneration. But that could soon change. This week in the newspaper , a multinational team made up of researchers from Sweden, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States has detailed a new antibody-based blood test they recently developed. The new test can detect brain-derived tau proteins, which are specific to Alzheimer’s disease. Following a study of 600 patients, the team found that their test could reliably distinguish the disease from other neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Thomas Karikari, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and one of the study’s co-authors, he hopes this breakthrough could help other researchers design better clinical trials for treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. “A blood test is cheaper, safer, and easier to administer, and it can improve clinical confidence in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and the selection of participants in clinical trials and monitoring of the disease,” a- he declared. There is still work to be done before the test makes it to your local hospital. For starters, the team needs to validate that it works for a wide variety of patients, including those who come from different ethnic backgrounds.
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