Vitals

Does a new Alzheimer’s study hold the secret to early diagnosis?


Alzheimer Disease Alzheimer disease as a neuropathology memory loss due to brain degeneration and decline as a surreal medical neurology illness concept.
By Shanley Pierce | March 4, 2019

Early detection of Alzheimer’s would be the holy grail for aging Americans, as one in 10 people age 65 and older is afflicted with the degenerative brain disease. After decades of costly clinical trials, however, Alzheimer’s research remains riddled with setbacks and failures.

But in February, researchers in Europe and Australia published a study in Science Advances that showed 10 different plasma proteins helped determine which people are likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Individuals with high levels of beta-amyloid in their brains— a protein fragment that accumulates and kills brain cells— were classified as having preclinical Alzheimer’s.

The study, which compared 238 cognitively healthy individuals, offers a glimmer of hope in a field with no survivors.

How could this study improve the detection and treatment of Alzheimer’s in the future?

Previous generations assumed that if individuals were cognitively unimpaired, they didn’t have beta-amyloid in their brains. However, positron emission tomography (PET) scans debunked that notion. Researchers can now capture high-quality images of amyloid plaques in the brain and show the presence of beta-amyloid even in the brains of cognitively healthy patients.

Currently, scientists use PET imaging and cerebrospinal fluid to identify biomarkers in the blood for Alzheimer’s. However, PET imaging is highly expensive and is only available at specialized centers. Spinal taps to extract cerebrospinal fluid, though less expensive, are extremely painful for patients.

A blood test to screen for preclinical Alzheimer’s—much like routine blood tests to measure cholesterol or glucose levels—could be inexpensive and widely available.

“It would be nice if we could draw a blood test when you’re 50 or 60, monitor you every five years, be alerted of your amyloid levels, and [prescribe] a pill or infusion that’s going to help stave off Alzheimer’s,” said Joseph Shimon Kass, M.D., director of neurology at Baylor College of Medicine’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center. “We’re nowhere near that, but this study brings us closer to that possibility.”

Given that biological changes occur in the brain 10 to 20 years before there are any clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s, early detection could also help alleviate the economic burden the disease weighs on the health care system.

“Financially, if all Americans today who have Alzheimer’s or who will get Alzheimer’s were diagnosed in the mild cognitive impairment stage (before they develop full-blown dementia), it could collectively save up to $7.9 trillion in health and long-term care cost,” said Julie Kutac, Ph.D., professional education and research specialist at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter.

How is the new blood test different?

Researchers claim that theirs is the first study to consistently use non-targeted techniques to analyze any protein that could potentially serve as a biomarker throughout the different phases of testing. Instead of searching for specific proteins researchers believe are associated with Alzheimer’s, a non-targeted approach can measure many more proteins.

Scientists found 560 proteins associated with beta-amyloid pathology, then narrowed it down to 10 proteins that helped them determine which cognitively unimpaired individuals in the study had high enough levels of beta-amyloid in their brains to qualify as preclinical Alzheimer’s.

What are the caveats of the new study?

This test “probably has some value,” said Joseph C. Masdeu, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Houston Methodist Nantz National Alzheimer Center, but additional studies with larger sample groups will need to be performed to validate these claims.

The European group consisted of 59 participants who were beta-amyloid negative and 35 who were beta-amyloid positive. The Australian group consisted of 100 participants who were beta-amyloid negative and 44 who were beta-amyloid positive.

Although the test had an overall accuracy of 89 percent and positive predictive value (meaning the chances that a patient receives a positive result) of 85 percent, the test groups were too small to make any profound pronouncements.

Nonetheless, this study is a step in the right direction.

“Research on this disease is moving faster now than ever before,” Masdeu said. “The data is coming in very quickly and, with it, the hope that we will very soon have something that we can offer our patients as a treatment.”




Social Posts

profile_image

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VeteransAffairs

In case you missed the #ExploreVA Facebook Live event on the revamped VA.gov, check out the recap and watch the video.

36 mins ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

#ICYMI, check out this recap of the #ExploreVA Facebook Live event on the revamped VA website https://t.co/Q1HPRAjWvA

36 mins ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @CPezman: Congrats to @UHCougarWBB on their @WomensNIT selection! The program continues to grow with @CoachHugheyUH and his incredible…

1 hour ago
profile_image

CHI St. Luke's Health

CHIStLukes

Are you an experienced Polysom Technologist looking for new opportunities? Join the hard-working team at CHI St. Luke’s Health–The Woodlands Hospital! This is a full-time position for the night shift. Apply today: https://bit.ly/2W3QKMS

2 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

We welcome hundreds of patients and their families from outside the U.S. each year. See how our International Center helps: https://t.co/oiN2oEvDl2 #endcancer https://t.co/6tX8scP507

2 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Daughters of the American Revolution Chapters honoring local Vietnam Veterans https://t.co/7XW9D5BLno via @KTVOTV

3 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Return The Favor: Glowing green for Veterans https://t.co/w7LwFweRyD via @abc27News

10 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

@j_rodricks1 @MJEjags @katyisd We are so grateful for these blood donations. They make a huge difference in our cancer patients’ lives. Thank you.

10 hours ago
profile_image

Memorial Hermann

@memorialhermann

Thousands of patients in need of heart surgery may soon have a new option. Read more: https://t.co/3p9SO6C3xz. https://t.co/PZ71Ui3vkB

11 hours ago
profile_image

We'cruitish

Wecruitish

Ready to hire a professional for your business?Well then search our talent pool for your perfect candidate Create an account today!Highly experienced professionals are waiting to perform at very high standards in your growing company.1. Post a Job: remote or local Post your job on We'cruitish job board and reach qualified candidates who are eager to be apart of your team. You will be pleasantly surprised when you see how easy it is to post jobs on our job board. You can also choose to receive applications by email or redirect applicants to a certain URL to complete the application process.2. Company Profile Page You can create a company profile page, which displays your logo, choose images and videos in the company descriptions section. you can add a link to your website and post any other information to attract more applicants. Such page contains all active jobs posted by this company in the second tab of the page.3. Search Workers We'cruitish created a smart keyword search system that carefully scans each candidate’s profile and each listing for the right keywords so that you can always find the best candidates for your vacancies.4. Employer Dashboard You have all the necessary tools to manage our jobs, see stats by job views, view applications from job seekers and manage profile settings in your dashboard.5. Applicant Tracking An appealing “kanban” style board allows categorizing applications by hiring status, look through all the information about a candidate, contact applicants and insert notes for each application.Click here to sign up https://wecruitish.com/sign-upOur no subscription! services let you pay only when you want Per Job Post Pay only when you need to post. Whats included?1 job postingno subscription!Featured Job Feature your Job to reach more candidates. Whats included?5X more exposure & applicationsJob stays top of search results1 Featured job postingDatabase Access Everything you need to grow your company Whats included?Monthly Resume AccessInvite candidate to a jobMessage CandidatesWith over 3,000 page views per day, once you post a job on our board you will get qualified candidates that match your job requirement. With We'cruitish Reduce your payroll up to 70%Highly educated professionals are ready to perform job/task that can be done remotely for a fraction of the cost you would pay traditionally in an office setting.Become a part of the We'cruitish team today!! Don't hesitate candidates are waiting for you

12 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@MDMagazine Thanks for the shout-out

12 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

After a surprise diagnosis at age 36, Paula Carrillo finds success with overcoming stage 2A #colorectalcancer with Dr. Michael Overman: https://t.co/iVnpQGygSR #CancerMoonshot #endcancer

12 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@GKHoustonMethod Thanks for the shout-out

12 hours ago
profile_image

Houston Methodist

@MethodistHosp

@bernd_montag @SiemensHealth Appreciate the shout-out

12 hours ago
profile_image

UTHealth

MyUTHealth

Two of the graduate education programs at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth were ranked among the highest in the nation in the just-released 2020 edition of the Best Graduate Schools guide by U.S. News and World Report.

13 hours ago