Washington: A blood test is in the offing to detect Alzheimer's disease, researchers at Emory University say.
"Reliability and failure to replicate initial results have been the biggest challenge in this field. We demonstrate here that it is possible to show consistent findings," says William Hu, assistant professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, who led the study.
Hu and collaborators at the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University, St. Louis, measured the levels of 190 proteins in the blood of 600 study participants at those institutions, the journal Neurology reports.
They included healthy volunteers and those who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI, which foreshadows Alzheimer's, causes a slight but measurable decline in cognitive abilities, according to an Emory statement.
Neurologists currently diagnose Alzheimer's disease based mainly on clinical symptoms. Additional information can come from PET brain imaging, which tends to be expensive, or analysis of a spinal tap, which can be painful.
"Though a blood test to identify underlying Alzheimer's disease is not quite ready for prime time given today's technology, we now have identified ways to make sure that a test will be reliable," Hu said.
"In the meantime, the combination of a clinical exam and cerebrospinal (brain) fluid analysis remains the best tool for diagnosis in someone with mild memory or cognitive troubles," Hu added.