A new blood test could potentially detect signs of Alzheimer’s years before symptoms begin to appear, which could help identify people at risk of developing the disease and help in the prevention and development of future treatments. Alzheimer’s, the leading cause of dementia, is currently diagnosed in most cases once the patient has a symptom, such as memory loss. At that point, the best treatment options available can only slow down the progression of symptoms.
Research has shown that the suspected cause of Alzheimer’s – a buildup of proteins in the brain can begin years, or even decades, before the onset of symptoms indicating cognitive impairment. These proteins, called amyloid beta proteins, clump together to form oligomers, leading to Alzheimer’s, a process scientists are still trying to understand.
Senior Author Valerie Daggett, a UW professor of bioengineering and faculty member at the UW Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute, says, “What clinicians and researchers have wanted is a reliable diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s disease – and not just an assay that confirms a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, but one that can also detect signs of the disease before cognitive impairment happens. That’s important for individuals’ health and for all the research into how toxic oligomers of amyloid beta go on and cause the damage that they do”. He added that the blood test, called the soluble oligomer binding assay (SOBA), “may be the basis of such a test.”