Researchers develop test to predict Alzheimer's

EDINA, Minn. - Researchers say they've developed a test that can predict whether you will develop Alzheimer's disease.

But do you really want to know? One expert says yes.

Until now, there's been no good test to predict if someone will get Alzheimer's, but researchers at Georgetown University say they've developed a blood test that, with 90 percent accuracy, can determine whether someone in their 70s will develop Alzheimer's in the next few years.

The work is published in the journal "Nature Medicine."

"It's one small study but it's a big step," said Debbie Richman, director of education and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association in Edina.

She said it could affect a large part of the population.

"We currently estimate over five million people in the country with the disease. There will potentially be sixteen million by 2050," she added.

The test looks at 10 lipids, or fats, in the blood. Researchers believe those lipid levels decrease as brain cells die and it shows up before signs of memory loss.

Why would someone want to know if they were going to get Alzheimer's when there's no way to stop its progression? According to Richman, it allows people to plan.

"So while they are able to make long term plans, whether that's care related or end-of-life related, it allows the person who has the diagnosis to be able to do that," she said.

And there's a broader reason, too. Researchers could look at patients at earlier stages in their disease.

"How great would it be if we were able to do that early on and then get those people engaged, whether that's part of a research study about a possible drug treatment or some other treatment? That would just give us more information in the end for all those people that are yet to be diagnosed," Richman said.

She said a much larger study of this blood test and its reported accuracy needs to be done. If that large study shows similar results, it could still be years before it's available to the public.


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