Alzheimer’s tests coming soon to a brain near you
A blood test for Alzheimer's disease
Japanese and Australian scientists have developed a blood test detecting Alzheimer’s disease. Fiercely competing in the race for superior Alzheimer’s detection, Hong Kong Baptist University scholars have developed another method of detection which samples bodily fluids. Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, early identification of the disease would help to identify candidates for clinical trials and treatment.
Current methods for detecting Alzheimer’s include genetic profiling, brain imaging and documenting mental decline. However, these methods only apply after the devastating symptoms arise. Early detection allows for minimally invasive and affordable diagnosis and future treatments.
Published in Nature the first study is centred on the detection of amyloid-beta proteins in the blood. The test measures levels of amyloid-beta(A-beta)- a sticky protein. Presence of this protein is often associated with an early indication of Alzheimer’s long before any outward symptoms are present. With a similar claim to fame the Hong Kong Baptist University scholars published, in the journal Chemical Science, experiments sampling saliva and urine used for detection of biomarkers including the A-beta protein.
Katsuhiko Yanagisawa, a gerontologist at the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Obu, Japan and a co-author of the Australian-Japanese study has highlighted its significance. He attributes the study’s success to using the technology of mass spectrometry and its ability to detect smaller amounts of the protein.
Previously the proteins were sampled from spinal taps or brain scans. These invasive, or post-mortem techniques, reveal clumps surrounding brain cells. The innovative blood testing relies on the ability to predict the clumps in the brain by monitoring levels of A-beta proteins in the blood. Clinical trials have shown the new blood test to have a 90% success rate in detecting Alzheimer’s.
Aiming to do one better, a team of scientists at Hong Kong’s Baptist University, led by Professor Ricky Wong Man-Shing and associate professor Dr Li Hung-wing, are developing tests that can detect telltale proteins in saliva, urine and other bodily fluids. Making a test that is easier and cheaper could see many more people take the test - and detect the disease at a much earlier stage.
Dr Li said, “This newly developed assay will be particularly useful as a low-cost yet accurate diagnostic and prognostic tool for Alzheimer’s disease. It can also serve as a novel alternative non-invasive tool for population-wide screening for the disease. This scientific detection assay has high potential to serve as a practical diagnosis tool.”
Dr. Li Hung-wing spoke recently at the Healthtech O2O event in Hong Kong to a packed audience of industry insiders and investors excited to hear about the progress.