A simple blood test for Alzheimer’s would be a great advance for individuals with and at risk for the disease, as well as families, doctors and researchers.
At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2020, scientists reported results of multiple studies on advances in blood “tests” for abnormal versions of the tau protein, one of which may be able to detect changes in the brain 20 years before dementia symptoms occur. In particular, the reports focus on a specific form of tau known as p-tau217, which seems to be the most specific to Alzheimer’s and the earliest to show measurable changes.
Changes in brain proteins amyloid and tau, and their formation into clumps known as plaques and tangles, respectively, are defining physical features of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain. Buildup of tau tangles is thought to correlate closely with cognitive decline. In these newly reported results, blood/plasma levels of p-tau 217, one of the forms of tau found in tangles, also seem to correlate closely with buildup of amyloid.
Currently, the brain changes that occur before Alzheimer’s dementia symptoms appear can only be reliably assessed by positron-emission tomography (PET) scans, and from measuring amyloid and tau proteins in spinal fluid (CSF). These methods are expensive and invasive. And, too often, they are unavailable because they are not covered by insurance or difficult to access, or both.
“There is an urgent need for simple, inexpensive, non-invasive and easily available diagnostic tools for Alzheimer’s. New testing technologies could also support drug development in many ways. For example, by helping identify the right people for clinical trials, and by tracking the impact of therapies being tested,” said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer. “The possibility of early detection and being able to intervene with a treatment before significant damage to the brain from Alzheimer’s disease would be game-changing for individuals, families and our health care system.”
A blood test, for example, will enable interpretation and understanding of Alzheimer’s progression in much larger, more robust populations.
“While these new reports are encouraging, these are early results, and we do not yet know how long it will be until these tests are available for clinical use. They need to be tested in long-term, large-scale studies, such as Alzheimer’s clinical trials,” Carrillo added. “In addition, we need to continue research to refine and verify the tests that are the current state-of-the-art — including cerebrospinal fluid and PET imaging biomarkers.
”The study shows that both p-tau217 and p-tau181 measured in blood are elevated in Alzheimer’s, and that measurements closely correspond to “gold standard” PET scan results. These blood tests are likely to be useful for diagnosing Alzheimer’s and as monitoring tools in clinical trials to measure treatment effects of new Alzheimer’s therapies.
WALK TO END ALZHEIMER’S
Help support the step closer. On Sept. 26, the Aitkin area team will be hosting a Walk to End Alzheimers. Stop by the Bremer Bank park to register starting at 9 a.m. Donations may be made at act.alz.org/Brain
erd, search Aitkin area team or donations may be made at the walk on Sept. 26.
The world may look a little different right now, but one thing hasn’t changed: the commitment to ending Alzheimer’s. This year, Walk to End Alzheimer’s is everywhere – on every sidewalk, track and trail.
Your health and safety are top priorities. There won’t be a large in-person gathering – instead, walk in Aitkin with your family and friends while others in the community do the same.
Check out the garden at Bremer Bank. Each flower has a color, and each color has a meaning; orange represents support for the cause, purple symbolizes a loved one lost to the disease; yellow to denote a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia; blue to indicate someone living with it.