New Test Predicts Alzheimer's at Least Three Years in Advance

A new blood test developed by scientists from Georgetown University in Washington DC is capable of predicting onset of Alzheimer's with 96 percent certainty three years in advance—and that figure could soon stretch to decades.

The researchers report their new test in Nature Medicine, explaining that it identifies 10 chemicals in the blood which are associated with the disease. While tests already exist to diagnose the condition, this is the first to predict its onset.

The test was developed using a group of 525 people aged 70 and over, who initially showed no signs of mental impairment. They were given cognitive tests over a five year period, and also had blood samples taken. Over the five years, 28 developed Alzheimer's—enough to identify the 10 chemicals which indicated the presence of the disease.

In subsequent trials, the presence of those chemicals in blood samples has been used to predict the onset of Alzheimer's within three years, with up to 96 percent certainty. The next step is to make the test even more sensitive—and the researchers hope that it could then be used to predict the onset of the disease 10 or 20 years in advance.

The only question then is: would you actually want to know? [Nature Medicine via New Scientist]

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