Researchers from the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine have reported the ongoing development of a blood test for early Alzheimer’s’ disease diagnostic. The preliminary data was presented during the recent Osteopathic Medical Conference & Exposition (OMED 15) in Orlando, Florida.
The innovative blood test relies on the detection of autoantibodies as blood biomarkers of disease. Although the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease is still poorly understood, the maintenance and regulation of a healthy blood-brain barrier is essential for disease prevention. Vascular health is a key step in maintaining this barrier, because weak or brittle blood vessels can leak into the brain, causing certain molecules such as autoantibodies to enter brain tissue, bind to neurons, and contribute to the development and accumulation of beta amyeloid plaques, important features of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, early detection — before emergence of debilitating symptoms — could lead patients to take preventive measures in their lifestyle habits, since diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all risk factors for poor vascular health.
Lead researcher Robert Nagele, PhD, explained the beneficial outcome of early Alzheimer’s diagnosis: “There are significant benefits to early disease detection because we now know that many of the same conditions that lead to vascular disease are also significant risk factors for Alzheimer’s. People found to have preclinical disease can take steps to improve their vascular health, including watching their diet, exercising, and managing any weight and blood pressure issues to help stave off or slow disease progression.”
Importantly, this blood test could theoretically be applied to other neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, as well as to breast cancer. Autoantibodies are abundant in human blood and experience a significant change in profile due to the onset of disease. A person’s antibody profile is also influenced by gender, age, and the presence of specific diseases or injuries, leading to characteristic changes in these molecules.
The approval of an effective blood test would be a great step forward in preventive medicine focused on Alzheimer’s disease. Early detection of brain changes could encourage clinically significant lifestyle changes that, along with early treatments, may affect or delay the more devastating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.