TECHNOLOGY – The risk of developing dementia could be predicted years in advance to prevent its progression.
Millions of people in the world suffer from the most common type of dementia. It manifests itself through a very significant loss of memory, passing through different processes, until the affected person loses consciousness or awareness of himself or herself and those around them.
Although the causes of this complex illness is not defined, scientists are increasingly aware of the chemical processes inside those neurons . The neuronal damage of Alzheimer’s is related to the accumulation of certain substances: amyloid proteins.
Now, scientists in Japan and Australia have developed a blood test that can identify people who have high levels of these proteins.
So far, there is no effective treatment that slows down Alzheimer’s , but this could start to change: the new analysis would be decisive to find therapies that stop the progression of neuronal damage.
The test identifies people whose brains have high levels of amyloid proteins, which, as we have seen, are key in Alzheimer’s disease and can cause dementia or be a symptom of it.
In addition, the researchers hope that drug developers can use the test to gather individuals with dementia when developing clinical trials before irreversible damage to the brain occurs .
Diagnosis decades in advance
People may know if they are at risk for Alzheimer’s or some kind of dementia decades in advance, thanks to this analysis, since it would identify abnormal accumulations of amyloid proteins, and this would allow them to stop the advance, before there is an irreversible neuronal damage.
Scientists around the world have been looking for a blood test like this for the past 15 years: until now, there was no way to identify people with the early stages of dementia.
To measure the levels of amyloid proteins in blood samples, the scientists combined two existing techniques: immunoprecipitation and mass spectroscopy.
Their results coincided with those obtained through brain imaging and analysis of spinal cord fluid in two separate cohorts involving 121 people in Japan and 252 people in Australia.
Each cohort included individuals between the ages of 60 and 90 years old.
Some of the participants were healthy; others showed mild impairment in their cognitive abilities; and others suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
However, more studies are still needed to determine the exact accuracy of this analysis. If fully effective, the test could help, not only to find an effective treatment against dementia, but to develop more reliable clinical trials.
In fact, the researchers stress that the analysis “is easy to do and cheap”.