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A simple technique to measure the amount of amyloid beta in the brain could improve diagnosis and drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease, according to the results of new research.

A simple blood test

Japanese researchers led by Dr. Katsuhiko Yanagisawa have published a new study suggesting that a screening test could help to boost the success rate of Alzheimer’s drug research. The research team has shown that a simple blood test can accurately measure the amount of amyloid beta, a protein that appears in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Amyloid is a typical pathological feature of Alzheimer’s disease, so being able to discern how much amyloid is present is key when designing optimal clinical trials. Currently, the only way to measure amyloid accumulation in a living person is either via an expensive positron emission tomography imaging (PET scan) or by taking a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) via a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap. A blood test would be a far less invasive and costly procedure to help determine how much amyloid is present in a patient.

The researchers believe that suficient amounts of amyloid beta penetrate the blood-brain barrier and enter the bloodstream to be a reliable measure of cognitive function. The hope is to replace the current, costly analysis methods with a simple, cost-effective way to detect preclinical Alzheimer’s and disease progression while improving clinical trials.

In order to measure the amyloid present in the bloodstream, the research team used a technique known as immunoprecipitation with mass spectrometry, which uses antibodies to bind to target proteins. The study included 121 people from Japan and 252 from Australia; of this group, there were people with normal brain function, mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers noted that the amount of amyloid present in the bloodstream correlated directly with the level of cognitive impairment. The level of blood amyloid also correlated with results from PET scans and spinal fluid samples from the same patients; this confirms that the blood test is effective.

The researchers are now continuing their study and expanding it in the hopes that they can bring an amyloid blood test closer to standard clinical use.

Conclusion

Having a reliable, non-invasive, and cost-effective biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease is a great result for clinical trials and drug development and may even find utility with home users who wish to monitor their health. We wish the researchers the best of luck and hope that soon, this test will be accepted as standard medical practice.

Literature

[1] Akinori Nakamura, Naoki Kaneko, Victor L. Villemagne, Takashi Kato, James Doecke, Vincent Doré, Chris Fowler, Qiao-Xin Li, Ralph Martins, Christopher Rowe, Taisuke Tomita, Katsumi Matsuzaki, Kenji Ishii, Kazunari Ishii, Yutaka Arahata, Shinichi Iwamoto, Kengo Ito, Koichi Tanaka, Colin L. Masters & Katsuhiko Yanagisawa (2018). High performance plasma amyloid-β biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease. Nature doi:10.1038/nature25456

CategoryNews, Research
About the author

Steve Hill

Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 500 articles on the topic as well as attending various medical industry conferences. In 2019 he was listed in the top 100 journalists covering biomedicine and longevity research in the industry report – Top-100 Journalists covering advanced biomedicine and longevity created by the Aging Analytics Agency. His work has been featured in H+ magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, and, Keep me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project. In 2015 he led the Major Mouse Testing Program (MMTP) for the International Longevity Alliance and in 2016 helped the team of the SENS Research Foundation to reach their goal for the OncoSENS campaign for cancer research.
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