It’s still in the early stages of development but a new blood spot test offers the possibility of a 10 Year head start on diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. The research findings, presented at the Society for Neuroscience Conference in Washington this month, could detect the disease way ahead of any other existing clinical diagnostic tool – as much as 10 years according to Dr. Dimitrios Kapogiannis.
Dr. Kapogiannis is a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging. He says that so far the tests have returned a 100 percent accuracy figure. The research team have identified a single protein in the brain involved in insulin signaling, called IRS-1, which seems to be defective in the brain’s of people with Alzheimer’s. The brains of people with Alzheimer’s did not respond normally to the action of insulin and insulin resistance in Alzheimer’s contributes to brain cell damage.
It is already known that type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance are risk factors for Alzheimer’s. The researchers discovered that people with Alzheimer’s have a defective protein that while similar to people with type 2 diabetes is more pronounced.
Seventy people with Alzheimer’s disease volunteered blood samples which were compared with 20 cognitively normal elderly people with diabetes, and 84 healthy adults. Those participants who went on to develop Alzheimer’s all had high levels of the inactive form of IRS-1. The levels were so consistent that the team were able to predict with 100% accuracy whether the blood sample had come from an Alzheimer’s patient or one of the others in the study sample, all of which suggests that molecular markers of insulin resistance in blood could be used to detect Alzheimer’s.
It’s an interesting time for predictive tests. Two other blood tests were announced this year. One, which measures 10 fats in the blood, appears able to predict dementia with 90% accuracy. Another that focused on proteins in the blood reported an 87% accuracy within a year.
Although no cure is yet available for Alzheimer’s such a test, if rolled out commercially, could serve the purpose of earlier treatment and decision making over future care options. But the research itself may also point to the role of insulin as to whether it may prove valuable in helping prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or perhaps, in concert with other treatments, help to ward off its worst effects for as long as possible.
Published On: November 20, 2014