Promising findings: Blood test may predict dementia long before symptoms

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New study reveals breakthrough in dementia detection through blood test.

NEW YORK, Feb 13: In groundbreaking research unveiled on Monday, scientists from the United Kingdom and China have revealed a potential breakthrough in the early detection of dementia. Their study, published in the journal Nature Aging, has uncovered a wealth of proteins in frozen blood samples that could forecast various forms of dementia more than a decade before diagnosis.

This discovery marks a significant step forward in the quest to identify individuals at risk for dementia through a simple blood test, a development anticipated to accelerate the advancement of new treatments for the debilitating condition. While current methods rely on costly brain scans to detect abnormal levels of beta-amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer’s dementia, the feasibility and accessibility of such tests remain limited.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Suzanne Schindler, an Alzheimer’s researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, highlighted the potential of blood tests to predict dementia risk over the next decade. However, she noted the challenges faced by individuals at higher risk in determining appropriate responses to such predictions.

Lead author Jian-Feng Feng of Fudan University underscored the significance of these tests, particularly in aging populations like China’s. Discussions are underway for potential commercial development of a blood test based on the research findings.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Warwick and Fudan University, analyzed over 52,000 blood samples from the UK’s Biobank repository, collected between 2006 and 2010 from individuals without dementia symptoms at the time. Of these samples, 1,417 individuals eventually developed Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, or dementia from any cause.

Researchers identified 1,463 proteins associated with dementia and prioritized them based on their predictive potential. Elevated levels of proteins including GFAP, NEFL, GDF15, and LTBP2 were consistently linked to a higher likelihood of developing dementia, with individuals showing higher levels of GFAP being 2.32 times more prone to dementia.

However, the authors cautioned that their findings have yet to undergo independent validation. Notably, one of the proteins, neurofilament light, is already utilized in clinical settings for diagnosing and monitoring conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

While this study did not incorporate clinically available blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease, experts believe such tests could further enhance dementia prediction. Already, these tests are employed in identifying candidates for clinical trials testing treatments in patients with early-stage or presymptomatic disease, signaling promising avenues in the fight against dementia.

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