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Published on: March 13, 2014
by Carey Rossi for Prevention:
You may have seen the headlines this week about a new blood test that could identify people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Published in the journal Nature Medicine, the new research describes a test that the analyzes the breakdown of 10 lipids (fat molecules), which could precede the development of cognitive impairment.
“There are currently tests for Alzheimer’s disease using either spinal fluid or imaging techniques, but these are certainly more difficult and expensive than a blood test,” says James Leverenz, MD, Center for Brain Health at Cleveland Clinic. “Investigators have been looking for a blood test, but they’ve had difficulties coming up with a reliable one. This [new test] would have great utility for clinicians, especially once we’ve developed preventative medications.”
But before you get too excited, experts warn that this new test is still a couple years away from being tested in clinical trials, not to mention gaining FDA approval. “This test may be a breakthrough, but it may also be a flash in the pan. The latter is more likely, but one always hopes that the initial claims will be confirmed,” says Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, associate director of Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Luckily, the researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (the ones in the media spotlight now) aren’t the only ones looking for ways to identify and treat the disease. In May 2013, Mayo Clinic researchers published a study in PLoS One about an approach that analyzes cerebrospinal fluid and blood plasma using a technique called metabolomics. The technique measures sugars, lipids, nucleotides, amino acids, and fatty acids to follow metabolic pathways in a cell, as there are significant pathway changes in those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Because the changes in the spinal fluid and blood plasma mirrored each other, researches say it might be easier to just examine a person’s blood plasma than collect spinal fluid.
And when it comes to possible treatments, Australian researchers announced last week the beginning of clinical trials with two drugs using people who have a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease. This is the follow-up to research published in Science Translational Medicine that found neuron damage begins 10 to 20 years before symptoms of mental decline occur in this population.
Until there’s a cure for Alzheimer’s, or a proven way to prevent it, there are steps you can take to help keep your brain healthy: Avoid consuming metals, exercise, eat organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible, and play lots of brain games.
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