Test to predict Alzheimer’s disease developed

Blood test can predict with 90% accuracy if people are at risk of disease, say US scientists

Former US president Ronald Reagan who died in 2004 after a long  struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 93. Photograph: AP Photo

Former US president Ronald Reagan who died in 2004 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 93. Photograph: AP Photo

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 01:00


Scientists in the US have developed a blood test that can be used to predict whether a person will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease within

three years. It could provide an early warning about a person’s risks and the possibility of early intervention.

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland has welcomed the research, saying the test would help with early treatment. However, it also raised serious ethical issues, said its chief executive officer Gerry Martin.

The research team from Georgetown University medical centre used 10 “biomarkers” in the blood to predict with 90 per cent accuracy whether subjects were at risk for Alzheimer’s.

The team used 525 healthy non-symptomatic participants aged 70 and older and monitored them over five years. It published its findings in the current issue of Nature Medicine .

The test measures 10 fat compounds called phospholipids in the cell walls. “There are no cures or disease-modifying therapies, and this may be due to our inability to detect the disease before it has progressed to produce evident memory loss and functional decline.

“It [the test] means preventative drugs could be given early,” the authors write in their paper. “There could be major treatment advantages associated with early diagnosis. ”

The condition currently affects more than 35 million worldwide. In Ireland there are some 35,000 with the disease.

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland welcomed the work, saying early intervention was an important step in managing dementia.

Ethical issues
However, Mr Martin also expressed concerns about the implications and ethical issues.

“People need to be given a choice about whether they want to know if they have a heightened risk and fully understand the outcome of such a test,” he said.