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Dementia biomarkers identified as hopes rise for early blood test

By February 14, 2024No Comments

The discovery of new biomarkers have given researchers hope that a blood test can be developed which can detect dementia in patients up to ten years earlier than a formal diagnosis.

The developments were made following analysis of samples from the 50,000 healthy individuals who are participating in the UK Biobank project.

Examination of the blood revealed patterns of four proteins that indicated the emergence of dementia overall, and specifically Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, in older individuals.

By integrating traditional risk factors such as age, sex, education, and genetic vulnerability, along with the protein profiles, researchers could anticipate dementia with approximately 90% accuracy almost 15 years prior to individuals obtaining clinical confirmation of the condition.

There are currently 55 million people living with dementia worldwide, with that figure expected to rise to over 70 million by 2030.

Recent studies have indicated that blood tests are the best route to early diagnosis of the disease. Marker testing could identify patients at risk who can then be fast tracked for full diagnostic testing.

With the advent of new Alzheimer’s drugs such as lecanemab and donanemab which can slow the disease when diagnosed at the earliest stage, developing accurate tests will be vital in providing patients with improved prognoses.

In the recent investigation, blood samples were gathered from 52,645 UK adults without dementia between 2006 and 2010 and stored for analysis a decade or so later. Over 1,400 of these individuals eventually developed dementia.

Employing artificial intelligence, the scientists sought correlations between nearly 1,500 blood proteins and the subsequent development of dementia. Published in Nature Aging, their findings highlight four proteins—Gfap, Nefl, Gdf15, and Ltbp2—that exhibited abnormal levels in those who later developed various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Elevated levels of these proteins served as early indicators of disease.

While the researchers are in discussions with companies to develop the test, they acknowledged that the current cost, several hundred pounds, would need to decrease to ensure its viability.