Scientists are now confirming that blood tests can track Alzheimer’s disease. A study showed that testing the blood for levels of a certain protein could be a noninvasive way to track the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.
What is the Protein Called?
The protein is called a neurofilament light, spilling out damaged and dying nerve cells into cerebrospinal fluid that travels into the bloodstream. Studies have shown that blood levels of neurofilament light are higher in people with diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
It’s possible that measuring blood levels of neurofilament light could show whether drugs for treating Alzheimer’s are working. Measuring neurofilament light in the blood could identify Alzheimer’s disease 10 years or more before the first symptoms start showing.
How Does Alzheimer’s Change the Brain?
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease that’s not easy to diagnose. Around 80% of people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease. The symptom of Alzheimer’s that comes on early is short-term memory loss. An array of other cognitive and physical deterioration that result from loss of brain cells, gradually worsen over time. This major decline can cause people to lose their ability to live independently and relate to those around them.
The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is high, reaching 5.8 million people and numbers are said to rise to 14 million by 2050. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are treatments to alleviate symptoms. Although, there are no treatments to stop the disease from progressing.
Are Blood Tests a Good Option?
Neurofilament proteins rise overtime in those with Alzheimer’s disease, along with cumulative brain damage. Brain MRI’s or lumbar punctures take copious amounts of time and money, so measuring neurofilament light in the blood can be cheaper and easier on a patient.
Can this Help in Developing New Treatments?
These tests can be beneficial because they can show if a drug is slowing or stopping the loss of nerve cells in the brain. Within drug development it can be valuable to detect the effects of the trialed drug at an early stage and to be able to test on people who do not yet have full-blown Alzheimer’s.
It’s important to continue studying neurofilament light as a potential biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease. For instance, questions remain about the marker’s sensitivity and how it changes in the long term. New studies also need to examine the effects that new drugs might have on levels of the protein.
A blood test that uses neurofilament light might be here sooner than people might think.
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