Alzheimer’s disease patients might have new hope after Rowan University’s ongoing research into early detection paths is bearing new fruit. Based on work that began five years ago at what was then known as the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Stratford, researchers said that they believed they had found a blood test to detect early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
In a research paper, they reported positive study results, according to USA Today. It may be too soon to label this as “groundbreaking” or “a breakthrough,” but “highly promising” is a legitimate superlative.
As relatives and other caregivers may be aware, a person developing Alzheimer’s disease may have no obvious symptoms at first, even though cognitive and physical abilities may decline rapidly once the disease is full-blown. While there is no cure, scientists believe proven drugs to delay the onset of serious symptoms work better if administered starting when a person is first known to have the disease.
The blood test can measure the body’s immune response to Alzheimer’s while any impairment is likely to be very mild. Dr. Robert Nagele, who heads the team, said initial clinical results show that the test can detect Alzheimer’s at this stage with “unparalleled accuracy.”
The just-finished “proof study” had 236 subjects. Out of those, the early blood test distinguished the 50 with biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease 100 percent of the time. While mild cognitive impairment is fairly common among older people, it can also be caused up to 40 percent of the time by factors unrelated to Alzheimer’s, FOX News reports.
According to Nagele, the body starts producing Alzheimer’s-specific antibodies up to a decade before a person has observable symptoms.
What does the researchers’ success mean? Ultimately, additional years that a loved one could spend at home with relatives, rather than being sent to a specialized care facility. Principal caregivers could keep income-producing jobs longer. They could avoid the heart-wrenching drama of watching a parent or sibling slide into dementia over an extended period. Imagine such a life-changing discovery.
Also, the researchers believe that the same type of test might be able to detect the onset of Parkinson’s disease and other degenerative diseases.
It will be a happier day still when prescriptions for Alzheimer’s disease don’t have to use the phrase “does not change how the disease progresses” as an advertising disclaimer. Arrest or long-term reversal of symptoms remains an elusive goal, as does a reliable course for prevention.
Psych Central said the Rowan SOM research was conducted with Durin Technologies Inc., and partly funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Osteopatic Heritage Foundation. Its continuation offers the short-term potential to make Alzheimer’s a manageable condition. That would be a “breakthrough,” indeed.