A simple blood test could predict whether a patient will contract Alzheimer's disease up to 16 years before the onset of symptoms, a new study shows.
By measuring levels of a protein in the blood, the so-called neurofilament light chain (NfL), researchers believe that an increase in protein levels could be an early sign of the disease, according to the study published on Monday in the journal Nature Medicine ,
NfL is a "marker in the blood that gives an indication of nerves." Cell loss in the brain, "said senior researcher Mathias Jucker, Professor of Cell Biology of Neurological Diseases at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases," The more neurofilaments you have in your blood, the more brain damage you have, "he said.
There are still no effective treatment for Alzheimer's, but Jucker believes the new blood test will be very important for clinical trials. "He hopes the test will allow researchers to monitor the effectiveness of new therapies before people notice symptoms by measuring them how protein levels are affected.
"Alzheimer's disease begins at least a decade, maybe even 20 years, before we have any symptoms," said Jucker, who is also chairman of the board of the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research at the University of Tübingen.
There are currently no investigators who can conclusively determine if someone is suffering from Alzheimer's There are many unknowns about its cause: A widespread theory states that the disease is due to the production and deposition of beta-amyloid plaques between neurons is determined in the brain.
United has 850,000 people living with dementia in the United Kingdom, and Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of disease in the United Kingdom, according to the Alzheimer's Society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease.
Of the many changes in the brain that precede the symptoms of the disease, one change is the accumulation of NfL in the blood before any symptoms begin, said Jucker.
The Jucker team has measured the rate of change in NfL using a blood test among 405 individuals from around the world who are enrolled in the Dominately Inherited Alzheimer's Network (International Heritage Alzheimer's Network) ̵
The team measured the NfL protein levels in participants through blood tests, brain imaging, and cognitive tests averaged every two and a half years in the last seven years. The study is still ongoing.
Patients who carried the gene mutations they brought with them for Alzheimer's disease – a group of 243 – had an elevated NfL level compared to the control group, which consisted of 162 family members with no mutation ,
By measuring the protein, Jucker said, "We can use our blood test to measure brain changes many, many years before we have the symptoms." So far, 13 participants had developed Alzheimer's.
Cognitive and brain imaging has been shown to correlate NfL levels with cognitive decline and brain shrinkage, said Jucker. The researchers also found a link between the altered NfL levels of 39 participants and the loss of brain and cognitive decline after two years.
The results show that changes in NfL levels, according to the study, were an accurate predictor of the development of brain damage.
Jucker compared the work of his team with the cancerous area.
"In general, that's nothing new," he explained. For example, certain markers tell people that they have cancer, even if there are no symptoms of the disease. The test is already available in stores. Jucker is confident that future clinical trials of new Alzheimer's drugs will include the marker developed by his team.
However, Jucker warns that the test is not specific to Alzheimer's disease. Higher neurofilament levels indicate damage to the brain, but may also be due to brain injury in an accident.
This is not the first blood test developed in the hope of diagnosing the disease early.
Previous studies have shown ways to detect Alzheimer's disease in the early stages. In a study from 2018, the presence and levels of amyloid beta in a subject's brain were investigated by examining individuals with varying degrees of health, including some with healthy, some with mild cognitive impairment and some with Alzheimer's disease.
In 2014 With a blood test that examined 10 specific lipids in the blood of humans, the researchers were able to predict Alzheimer's before symptoms appeared.
Sarah Marzi, a postdoctoral researcher at Queen Mary University in London, said researchers "show the most promising" changes in NfL, which predict cognitive test results and thin out the cortex, "two main symptoms of Alzheimer's disease".
Marzi, who was not involved in the research, said in an email to CNN that if "this result can be replicated in larger cohorts and more generally in sporadic cases of Alzheimer's disease," the blood test for NfL in In fact, a promising biomarker or diagnostic tool would be a tool. "
" So far, however, the authors have shown this only in a small sample (39 individuals) of individuals who all carried Alzheimer's mutations. "
Dr Charles Marshall, a clinical lecturer in neurology at Queen Mary University in London, said in an email to CNN," This is exciting because it may allow treatment to be started early, and thus the development of dementia prevented. "