Blood Test Can Spot Alzheimer's Years Early
'Game changer' raises ethical dilemmas
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2014 2:47 AM CDT
The director of an Alzheimer's assisted-living facility in Washington puts her hand on the arm of a resident.    (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

(Newser) – A simple blood test can spot Alzheimer's disease years before symptoms develop, researchers say—though it's a breakthrough some may choose to ignore. A Georgetown University team says its "highly sensitive and specific test" can identify people in their 70s who are likely to develop Alzheimer's in the next two to three years, reports the BBC. They tested levels of 10 fats in the blood to get results they say are 90% accurate. It's already possible to spot the disease early with MRI scans or spinal taps, but the researchers say a quick and easy test could be a "game changer" that will help efforts to find ways to slow down or stop the disease.

If larger-scale tests confirm the breakthrough, many seniors will have to ask themselves whether they are prepared to face what the lead researcher calls test results that "could be life-altering," NPR finds. No cure for Alzheimer's exists, and while knowing they will soon develop the disease would help people plan ahead for their needs, they would face major questions of stigma and identity, medical ethicist notes. "How will other people interact with you if they learn that you have this information?" he says. "And how will you think about your own brain and your sort of sense of self?"

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shona browne
Mar 11, 2014 1:00 AM CDT
I would like to mention regarding the subject of nursing homes, since that has been brought up, that while no one likes them and they are far more expensive than in home care, that our wonderful congress repeatedly has caved to institutional care lobbies, and purposed money for nursing homes, but not for inhome care. Please people, pay attention to this as everyone will get old.
shona browne
Mar 11, 2014 12:38 AM CDT
When I last checked, couple months ago, the only way to know for sure if someone had Alzheimer's was an autopsy. What are the cases they are using to come up with their 90% probability. I don't know that a spinal tap can predict Alzheimer's; possibly some characteristic plaques can be seen on a scan. Researcher's make too many claims for their studies, looking for the almighty dollar. These claims are later debunked. Too many conclusions are jumped to without additional studies. People lose memory as they age. That is normal. In just the last 5 years we have been hearing all about Alzheimers, when before most loss was considered normal. Doctors must be hurting for patients. So many older folks are needlessly frightened by all this hoopla, they forget something and are immediately in fear of this. IF there is an upsurge in Alzheimers recently, we should be asking why. There is no cure, so they must be aiming at pushing some drugs for the big pharms. I would not want to know, and there should be the right to not have that result included in a blood test.
Mar 10, 2014 6:18 PM CDT
A constant litany of articles on spotting dementia do nothing since it has no cure and is terminal. We need a cure now. By 2050 there will be 135 million worldwide with this disease.