The findings of a recent study involving 158 older adults appeared in the journal Neurology in October. Results strongly suggest that a blood test may soon help to identify Alzheimer’s disease in patients at an early stage, according to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. The test may allow doctors to determine with a very high likelihood that patients have the disease even before symptoms develop.
The hope is that medical researchers can develop new treatments to slow down and fight the disease while the brain is still healthier than it will become as the illness progresses. Part of this research would be to include people whose bloodwork indicates a high likelihood of Alzheimer’s in clinical trials earlier than is possible now.
The blood test determines whether the protein beta-amyloid is present. This toxic protein builds up within brain tissue of Alzheimer’s patients many years before outward symptoms of memory loss begin to manifest.
Researchers also considered patient age and the presence of APOE-E4, a gene that raises the person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s. Using these three factors, researchers found that early diagnosis could be made with an accuracy rate of 94%.
Currently, doctors use PET brain scans to detect beta-amyloid. These scans are expensive, and their interpretation requires a high level of expertise. Should the blood test become routine, it would be relatively inexpensive, quicker and more easily interpreted.
Early detection would mean a patient could receive medications and other treatments well before severe brain damage, increasing the chance that the treatment could impact brain health.
At our law firm, we represent people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias as well as their loved ones and people with professional responsibilities for the well-being of vulnerable adults. Such professionals include guardians, conservators and trustees. We help with appropriate estate planning, trusts, Medicaid and other long-term care planning, public benefit preservation, location of the right residential facility or in-home services, detection of abuse or neglect and pursuit of legal remedies for resulting harm, and other legal services.
We hope that this research brings us closer to earlier and faster diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, which could greatly help our clients and their families.