Alzheimer's blood test could help efforts to diagnose disease early

A blood test is being called a game-changer in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Still in its early stages, the test is a great step forward to diagnosing the disease early on.

In the meantime, one of the leading experts in Alzheimer’s disease at the Mayo Clinic said they’re also working on their own study to end the deadly condition.

“So while this test is new, it's interesting, I think it needs to be validated in a long-term study watching how people, in fact, over time develop Alzheimer's disease later on down the road," said Dr. Ronald Petersen, a top neurologist at the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

"We certainly need a cheap, inexpensive, accurate test to tell us who has Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, though, the test is not simple."

The test was published this week in the journal proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Though still in development, the test may someday be used to diagnose other degenerative brain disorders and even impairments from head injuries.

"The sooner we identify someone who is at risk for developing something like Alzheimer's disease, the sooner we intervene, the more likely we are to help them and prevent the disease from developing," he said.

Dr. Petersen said the Mayo Clinic has been at the forefront of battling Alzheimer's disease, and they already use certain techniques to detect if the disease is present in living people. Right now, it can only be diagnosed by testing a deceased person’s brain.

They're also embarking on a long-term project, randomly sampling people in the Rochester community for memory impairment.

He hopes these methods combined with a quicker way to diagnose Alzheimer's, like the blood test, can one day lead to a cure.

"We're putting all these together to see if we can develop early predictors of who’s going to become memory impaired," Dr. Petersen said.

Researchers of the blood test say validating this will take close to 10 years before it's available to the general public.