A recently developed blood test by Swedish and American scientists studying Alzheimer’s disease has diagnosed the disease with such precision Like methods that are much more expensive or invasive, scientists reported today, a significant step toward a long-term goal for dementia patients, doctors, and researchers.
The exam has the potential to make diagnosis simpler, more affordable, and widely available to everyone. The key to it is that the test determined whether people with dementia had Alzheimer’s rather than another condition. And it also identified signs of deadly degenerative disease 20 years before memory and thinking problems were expected. in people with a genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer’s disease, according to research published in JAMA and presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
“The test was 96 percent accurate in determining whether people with dementia had Alzheimer’s rather than other neurodegenerative disorders.said Dr. Oskar Hansson, lead author of the study and professor of clinical memory research at Lund University in Sweden. That performance, in a group of nearly 700 people from Sweden, was similar to PET scans and spinal strokes, and was better than MRI and blood tests for amyloid, another form of tau, and a third type of neurological biomarker called neurofilament light chain.
People with Alzheimer’s had seven times more of the tau protein, called p-tau217The test measured that people without dementia or those with other neurological disorders, such as frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, or Parkinson’s disease, Hansson added.
The experts who published the study claim that the test could be available for clinical use in as little as two to three years, providing an easily accessible way to diagnose whether people with cognitive problems are experiencing Alzheimer’s, rather than other types of dementia. Additionally, a blood test like this could also be used to predict whether someone without symptoms would develop Alzheimer’s.
“This blood test very accurately predicts who has Alzheimer’s disease in the brain, including people who appear to be normal. It is not a cure, it is not a treatment, but you cannot treat the disease without being able to diagnose it. ” And low-cost, accurate diagnosis is really exciting, so it’s a breakthrough, “said Dr. Michael Weiner, an Alzheimer’s disease researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.”
Almost 6 million people in the United States and approximately 30 million worldwide have Alzheimer’s, and figures are expected to double by 2050 as the population ages. Alzheimer’s blood tests, being developed by various research teams, would provide some hope in a field that has experienced failure after failure in its search for ways to treat and prevent a devastating disease that robs people. their memories and their ability to function independently.
Advantages of the new test
The scientists said blood tests would speed up the search for new therapies by making it faster and cheaper to screen participants for clinical trials, a process that now often takes years and costs millions of dollars because it is method-based. expensive like PET scans of the brain and spine. But the ability to diagnose Alzheimer’s with a quick blood test would also intensify ethical and emotional dilemmas. for people who decide if they want to know if they have a disease that still has no cure or treatment.
The test, which measures a form of the tau protein found in tangles that spread throughout the brain in Alzheimer’s disease, proved remarkably accurate in a study of 1402 people from three different groups in Sweden, Colombia and the U.S. It performed better than MRI brain scans. It was also as good as PET scans or spinal strokes and was almost as accurate as the most definitive diagnostic method: autopsies they found strong evidence of Alzheimer’s in people’s brains after their death.
“According to the data, it is a big step forward,” he said. Rudolph Tanzi, professor of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the investigation. He and other experts said the results would have to be replicated in clinical trials in more populations, including those that reflect greater racial and ethnic diversity. The test will also need to be refined and standardized so that results can be analyzed consistently in laboratories, and will need approval from federal regulators.
Actually, Alzheimer’s diagnoses are made primarily with clinical evaluations of memory and cognitive decline, as well as interviews with relatives and caregivers of patients. The diagnoses are often inaccurate because doctors have trouble distinguishing Alzheimer’s from other dementias and physical conditions that involve cognitive decline.
Measures like expensive and often unavailable PET scans and spinal strokes can detect high levels of amyloid protein, which accumulates in plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, and there has been recent progress in blood tests for amyloid. But amyloid alone is not enough to diagnose Alzheimer’s because some people with high levels do not develop the disease.
A progressive disease
It is the leading cause of dementia worldwide. Alzheimer’s disease, first described by the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer, is a physical disease that affects the brain. In Argentina, it is estimated that 1 in 8 adults over 65 suffer from it, and the figure reaches more than 500 thousand people who suffer it in total. However, it is a pathology covered by a veil of stigma and disinformation, which only leads to delay its diagnosis.
The family, social and work environment of a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease receives a strong impact, especially given the changes that the disease produces, since people with these conditions take time to perform simple tasks, forget conversations or have changes in their behavior.
“Alzheimer affects the brain preventing the normal functioning of neurons. It is a disease that progresses slowly and whose symptoms appear or increase over the years. In fact, microscopic changes in the brain begin to occur up to 15 to 20 years before these signs appear. Survival after diagnosis varies on average between seven and 15 years” Neurologist María Alejandra Amengual (MN 105232) pointed out that “several symptoms that are frequent in Alzheimer’s disease, such as memory loss, difficulty finding the right words and mood swings, can also be observed in depression or in normal aging. However, they are differentiated by the degree of interference they generate for the development of habitual activities ”.
Alzheimer’s disease is the main cause of dementia and covers between 60 and 70% of cases worldwide, according to WHO data. Dementia includes memory, language, attention, or reasoning problems.Because of their severity, they prevent a person from carrying out their daily activities independently. In this context, dementia is not necessarily accompanied by behavioral or mood symptoms, although these may be present.
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