A blood biomarker test for Alzheimer’s disease might be available to the public within the next three years.
There is currently no blood-based test available to detect the progressive neurological disorder, which is the most common cause of dementia. There is no cure.
Dr. Aimee Pierce, a professor at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and the director of clinical care and therapeutics in the OHSU Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, said she thinks a blood biomarker test will be available in the next three years.
Sara Kofman, public policy director with Alzheimer’s Association Oregon & SW Washington Chapter, said the test “will help modernize the diagnosis for Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
Alzheimer’s is currently diagnosed after tests including imaging and a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap. Both of those procedures can be expensive, some areas don’t have nearby imaging technology, and a spinal tap can be invasive. A blood biomarker test will be more affordable and accessible for people, Kofman said.
“We need to find a way to administer a less invasive and more accessible technology to detect the disease,” Kofman said.
OHSU’s Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Center is one of 32 National Institutes of Health Alzheimer’s Disease Centers across the country. Pierce said there’s an intense focus in the Alzheimer’s research world to discover a blood biomarker test. The test would detect an abnormal buildup of amyloid protein in the bloodstream, forming plaques.
High levels of protein plaques can be predictive of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, as the protein “is the building block of one of the hallmark brain lesions of Alzheimer’s disease,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Pierce said that buildup can occur 10 to 15 years before memory loss occurs, which means a blood test could lead to earlier detection of the disease and help the patient and their family prepare.
“It might be very helpful for early detection,” Pierce said.
The blood test might also be key to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. If there are earlier detections of Alzheimer’s, then there can be more participants to help study the buildups, and possibly reverse the buildups or find other ways to stop Alzheimer’s from manifesting.
“It’s really important because it provides us with a window into the brain,” Pierce said.