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Blood Test May Spot Alzheimer's Before Symptoms Appear

Test Looks for Antibodies Specific to Alzheimer's Disease

New Blood Test for Alzheimer's: How It Works continued...

The researchers found thousands of these antibodies. "Many of these are related to the presence of the disease," Nagele says.

Nagele's team looked at blood samples from 50 people with Alzheimer's disease and 40 without. They also looked at blood samples from 30 breast cancer patients and 29 with Parkinson's disease, to be sure the test could be specific for Alzheimer's.

"Parkinson's and Alzheimer's are very close in terms of their pathology," Nagele says. "Neurons are dying in both cases."

He wanted to see if the test could tell Alzheimer's and Parkinson's apart.

Overall, the tests identified 96% of those with Alzheimer's correctly. It correctly identified 92.5% of those who didn't have Alzheimer's.

In the process, Nagele narrowed down the list of antibody biomarkers needed to detect Alzheimer's disease to 10.

The hope is to detect the disease before symptoms appear, but Nagele stresses his team has not yet done that.

If all goes well, he is hopeful the test could be available within a year. Costs are difficult to estimate, but it could be about $200, he tells WebMD.

New Blood Test for Alzheimer's: Perspective

Snyder calls the report exciting but also had many caveats. "I would call it preliminary," she says of Nagele's research. "It's a small study and a small sample."

As research on blood and other tests for Alzheimer's progresses, Snyder says, the measures must be standardized so people get the same results regardless of where the test is performed.

That has been an issue, for instance, in some cerebral spinal fluid tests, also being studied to detect Alzheimer's. "What we have seen, at least in cerebral spinal fluid [tests], is that it hasn't held up across different labs," she says.

She acknowledges some people may not want to know if the disease is in their future, but says knowing early has many advantages. "They can plan for their financial future, as well as their care," she says. "They can participate in clinical trials. When we do have therapeutic options available, the ultimate goal would be intervention."

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