A Test for Early Alzheimer’s

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It sometimes seems as though the research behind Alzheimer’s disease moves forward at a snail’s pace. There are still no effective medications for the disease, no way to prevent it, and little hope that it can be detected early. But researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center are trying to change that. According to a recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers were able to predict with over 90 percent accuracy whether someone would develop Alzheimer’s or not within the next three years.

The researchers created a test that identifies 10 lipids, or fats, that are found in the blood of people who go on to develop Alzheimer’s within three years. “Our novel blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk for progressive cognitive decline and can change how patients, their families, and treating physicians plan for and manage the disorder,” stated lead author, Howard Federoff, MD, PhD.

While the test is not ready for prime time—or even clinical trials—it shows that we are making some progress toward identifying this devastating disease at an earlier stage. The researchers plan to further test the lipid panel for use in people at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s so that they can investigate a therapeutic drug that might delay or prevent its development. Only time will tell what they find. For now, any progress is a step forward. But we still have a long way to go.