Still, there is indeed hope, based on a new study that's been published in the journal Nature. In the study, a group of scientists from Japan and Australia worked together to develop a new kind of blood test that can be used to detect the build-up of a toxic protein called amyloid beta that is known to be linked with the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers noted that their method proved effective and accurate for 90 percent of their tests, which involved trials on three groups of people: healthy people, people with memory loss, people with Alzheimer's disease. They also said that their work, while currently at an early stage of development and needs further testing, shows great promise.
For your reference, it's important to know exactly what role the protein fragment amyloid beta plays in Alzheimer's disease. In one study conducted by scientists at the Stanford University's School of Medicine, it has been "strongly implicated" in the disease, reportedly beginning to destroy synapses before clumping into plaques that eventually result in nerve cell death. Synapses are the connections between nerve cells that facilitate all cognitive functions.
With the new method developed by the researchers, it's possible to assess the ratios of types of amyloid fragment present in patients, which could be used to accurately predict the levels of amyloid beta in the brain, according to a report. The major implication, of course, is the fact that it's possible to check the blood of patients to see what is happening in their brains.
According to Dr. Abdul Hye from King's College London, this was not possible in the past. "This study has major implications as it is the first time a group has shown a strong association of blood plasma amyloid with brain and cerebrospinal fluid," he said.
One benefit to the creation of their new method is related to cost savings since a blood test is far cheaper than a brain scan. As the researchers themselves noted in their study, their method is useful for "potentially enabling broader clinical access and efficient population screening." Even if it may not be of any use when it comes to the actual treatment of patients, at least it will help in detecting Alzheimer's as early as possible.
Professor Tara Spires-Jones from the Center for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh has said that the data from the research could become useful in clinical trials. "These data are very promising and may be incredibly useful in the future," she said, "in particular for choosing which people are suited for clinical trials and for measuring whether amyloid levels are changed by treatments in trials."
Although it looks like this new method is only going to be helpful in the screening process, it will still prove to be a valuable asset in the race to detect devastating diseases like Alzheimer's.
Do you know anyone with Alzheimer's disease? Learn more about it in Alzheimers.news.