While researchers continue to search for new prevention options and treatment for Alzheimer's, recent findings suggest that a blood test could detect the disease as early as 10 years before traditionally noticeable symptoms appear. Although two other teams announced blood testing methods that could potentially predict Alzheimer's earlier this year, this new research done by scientists at the National Institute of Aging has pinpointed one specific protein in the brain that is defective in those suffering from Alzheimer's disease. While the initial study was relatively small and therefore requires much additional testing, researchers are optimistic that their work will be verified in time.
"Researchers were able to predict if a participant had Alzheimer's, diabetes or was healthy without error."
Advancements in neuroscience
Neuroscientists at the National Institute of Aging presented their findings during the Society for Neuroscience conference in mid November 2014. Attended by more than 31,000 researchers and other various professionals invested in brain health, the conference is the largest meeting focused on brain and nervous system discoveries, the society notes in a news release. Over the four days of this year's event, 712 exhibitors showcased their findings and 50 neuroscientists made large presentations.
Researchers gathered blood samples from 84 healthy adults, 20 cognitively normal seniors with diabetes and 70 participants that suffered from Alzheimer's disease. According to Bloomberg, 22 of the participants with Alzheimer's provided earlier blood samples taken one to 10 years prior to being diagnosed with the disease. The team used the samples to isolate exosomes, which are secreted vesicles used to discard unwanted cellular components, according to The Scientist. The researchers then limited the pool to exosomes that originated in the brain and measured the IRS-1 protein levels.
An inactive form of the isolated IRS-1 protein was found at lower levels in healthy participants, high levels in those with Alzheimer's and in the middle for those with diabetes. These distinct differences in the amount of protein made it possible for researchers to take a blood sample and predict if a participant had Alzheimer's, diabetes or was healthy without error.
Using this method, neuroscientists may be able to measure the amount of IRS-1 in a person's blood as an indicator of potentially developing Alzheimer's disease. Though the testing sample will have to be expanded, the current 100 percent accuracy rate is a positive sign as the team moves forward with their research.