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Alzheimer’s blood test promises early detection

A blood test for the diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease has been developed.

The test, made by University of Melbourne researchers, has the potential to improve detections of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease to 91 per cent accuracy.

Brain imaging can detect changes that occur two decades before signs of dementia show. The test could predict these changes and a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s earlier than now possible.

About 20 per cent of healthy participants with no memory complaints tested positive in an initial trial group of the blood test. The research team said the test must undergo further trials in a larger population across three to five years, as Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease.

Dr Lesley Cheng, from the department of biochemistry, molecular and cell biology and the Bio21 Institute, said the research is critical for the development of therapeutic and preventative drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. “We can use it to identify patients of high risk and recruit them into clinical trials,” she said.

The method involves harvesting protective bubbles of genetic material called MicroRNA. “What we can do is capture them from the blood stream and what we have done is profile them using next-generation sequencing.” Cheng said. “We found that 16 of these microRNA are different [when] compared with healthy people.”

The team also plans to develop a test for Parkinson’s disease.

Cheng said the research team has already had a lot of interest from patients who want to find out whether they are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

“The blood test would be a great tool as a pre-screen and we can determine which patients should be referred to more expensive testing such as the PET imaging,” she said.

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