alzheimersconfResearchers have unveiled plans to develop a blood test that distinguishes between people with and without dementia.

University of Nottingham scientist Professor Kevin Morgan told delegates at the opening session of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Conference 2013 [11-12 March] in Belfast how his team has been analysing blood from patients with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as people with mild cognitive impairment.

Using a combination of techniques to pick up levels of particular molecules in the blood, scientists at the University of Nottingham have developed a panel of ‘markers’ that can be used to identify those with Alzheimer’s.

Prof Morgan said: "The panel we have created contains some of the better-known proteins linked to Alzheimer’s, like amyloid and APOE, but more recently we have strengthened it by adding in new proteins linked to inflammation.

"Research is increasingly suggesting inflammation to be an important process in Alzheimer’s and we are learning from these discoveries to make our test even stronger. Our findings are exciting because they show that it is technically possible to distinguish between healthy people and those with Alzheimer’s using a blood test.

"It could take 10 years or more for a test like this to become routine in the clinic, but as blood tests are a fast and easy way of aiding diagnosis, we are really encouraged by these findings and the potential they hold for the future."

In addition, important inflammatory components of Alzheimer’s disease were later identified by Prof Morgan's team and added to their biomarker panel. Through employment of novel analytical techniques – called surface plasmon resonance – that permitted investigation into the expression patterns of the putative biomarkers, they were able to create a refined biomarker panel that has 99% diagnostic specificity in cerebrospinal fluid and 87% in plasma for detecting Alzheimer’s.

Reacting to the findings, Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: "Giving people with dementia an accurate diagnosis is not always easy, and so building up our armoury of diagnostic techniques is vital. While there is still some way to go before a test like this could become available, the results are promising. When used alongside other diagnostic techniques, a blood test like this could be a real help.

"Providing people with an accurate diagnosis of dementia is important because it allows access to correct care, support and treatments. Early and accurate diagnosis of the diseases that cause dementia also allows potential new treatments to be tested in the right people at the right time – something that is vital if we are to find new medicines to tackle these diseases."

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