A team of researchers from Australia and Japan has developed the world’s first blood test accurate enough to detect Alzheimer’s disease up to 20 years before symptoms begin. The Alzheimer’s blood test could be a serious breakthrough for the millions of Americans who will later face this progressive disease. 

A mere drop of blood is enough for this test to identify one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease, the build-up of a sticky protein called amyloid-beta. Amyloid plaques, typically found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, are small clumps of this protein that block synaptic signaling from one brain cell to another.

Alzheimer’s Blood Test Benefits

Professor Colin Masters from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health said the blood test would be used to accurately screen people for clinical trials. It would also make diagnosing Alzheimer’s more cost-effective and more widely available.

The number of participants in this study was 252 Australian and 121 Japanese patients aged between 60 and 90 years. The test is still in its early stage of development, but Professor Masters said of the results so far, “If the test is negative, there’s a 95 percent chance that you’re not going to develop Alzheimer’s within the foreseeable future — that means within 10 or 15 years.”

Future of Alzheimer’s Testing

There are over 70 different types of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common. More often than not, the 5.5 million Alzheimer’s patients across the U.S. are confined to spending the remainder of days in an assisted living facility or nursing home, and they are often among the most vulnerable in a place designed to maintain their comfort and wellbeing.

The current more invasive and costly methods of screening for Alzheimer’s, such as a spinal tap, are another reason the blood test is making headlines. Detecting symptoms this easily and this early on would obliterate current drug treatments that only lessen the disease’s symptoms rather than slow its progression.  

The development of such a revolutionary blood test brings hopeful news for expanding new treatments, but it still needs to be replicated in a bigger study sample before any large scale rollout can take place.