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Two recent studies have shown that a new laboratory test can help in quick Alzheimer’s disease (AD) diagnosis. Researchers in the two studies have established a specific protein that increases in presence with AD progression.

Alzheimer’s diagnosis challenging through current screening methods

Alzheimer’s is a dementia form often referred to as Alzheimer’s dementia. It is the 6th leading death cause in the IS and affects at least one in every ten Americans above 65 years. In 2020, the number of Americans with AD was around 5.8 million whereby 80% were above 75 years.

Conventionally, AD diagnosis involves testing one’s problem-solving and memory abilities to ascertain cognitive decline. Usually, family members are involved in the discussions regarding the ability of the person to perform tasks and take care of themselves. Sometimes brain scans (CT, MRI, PET) can be helpful when looking for degenerative changes in the brain. Spinal fluid can also be used to analyze for AD signs. Unfortunately, these tests are costly and take a long time to conclude this making clinical trials enrolment for AD challenges.

A new blood test shows early signs of AD

Currently, blood tests are vital in measuring B12 and thyroid levels. Since thyroid and Vitamin B12 disorders resemble AD symptoms researchers have determined that blood tests can help in AD diagnosis.  Researchers conducted two studies last year in California involving 404 participants and in Sweden involving around 1131 individuals. Both studies were looking at a protein gone bad—tau and produced similar results. Normally good tau maintains connectors’ stability between cells. Notably, the connectors are vital in moving molecules between cells and the researchers specifically looked at pTau 181.

Interestingly, pTau 181 plasma amount increases significantly in people developing AD without clear symptoms and they were even higher for individuals already diagnosed with AD. Most importantly, the elevated pTau 181 only indicated AD and was not witnessed in individuals with other forms of dementia such as Parkinson’s disease.  These results demonstrate that pTau 181plasma could be important for screening AD implying early diagnosis and treatment.