Blood Test Detects Alzheimer’s 20 Years Before Memory Loss Starts

A huge global problem is that the world is on track to have 100 million people will have Alzheimer’s disease (AD) dementia in 2050. Early, accurate, and biomarker-based diagnosis of AD would be a game-changer for mitigating the course of the disease as early as possible and a means to tell how well treatments are working. A new blood test can identify signs of the degenerative, deadly disease 20 years before memory and thinking problems were expected in people with a genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer.

A global team of researchers (Boston, Sweden, UK, Columbia, Arizona, Indiana) have newly developed blood test for Alzheimer’s that matches far more expensive and invasive tests for accuracy. Diagnosis will cheaper and faster. A new cheap test will also speed up the research, development and testing of new treatments.

The test could be approved for use in two to three years.

Currently about 30 million people have AD around the world.

JAMA – Discriminative Accuracy of Plasma Phospho-tau217 for Alzheimer Disease vs Other Neurodegenerative Disorders

JAMA – Discriminative Accuracy of Plasma Phospho-tau217 for Alzheimer Disease vs Other Neurodegenerative Disorders

Sebastian Palmqvist, MD, PhD; Shorena Janelidze, PhD; Yakeel T. Quiroz, PhD; et alHenrik Zetterberg, MD, PhD; Francisco Lopera, MD; Erik Stomrud, MD, PhD; Yi Su, PhD; Yinghua Chen, MSc; Geidy E. Serrano, PhD; Antoine Leuzy, PhD; Niklas Mattsson-Carlgren, MD, PhD; Olof Strandberg, PhD; Ruben Smith, MD, PhD; Andres Villegas, MD; Diego Sepulveda-Falla, MD; Xiyun Chai, Md; Nicholas K. Proctor, BS; Thomas G. Beach, MD, PhD10; Kaj Blennow, MD, PhD; Jeffrey L. Dage, PhD; Eric M. Reiman, MD; Oskar Hansson, MD, PhD
JAMA. 2020;324(8):772-781. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.12134

27 thoughts on “Blood Test Detects Alzheimer’s 20 Years Before Memory Loss Starts”

  1. If there was something that acted to prevent or delay senility we would probably all want to be doing that anyway.

    The current best advice is exercise, low bodyfat, and maintain intellectual activity. So… err don't spend much time on the internet? Oops…

  2. Why haven't you?? Because, like me, you don't have the guts? To each his own, for me there's nothing worse than knowing I'm going to suffer from a terrible disease like Alzheimer's, to you it might be a different thing…

  3. Senility is like cancer in that if you live long enough you will eventually get it. If there is nothing that can be done about it I am not sure knowing 20 years earlier would do me any good. But if there was something I could do that would delay the onset then yes I would want to know since forewarned is forearmed.

  4. Personally, I was diagnosed with lymphoma back in '09, and after facing a high probability of dying within months, being told I might get Alzheimer's in a decade or two would be kind of anti-climatic.

  5. But as MarcGP pointed out it would help him with his future – retirement planning- will – and insurance choices. Even though we are assured to die one day, people don't fuss about it a lot. I would like to know.

  6. For now, if you test positive there is nothing they can do anyway. If the test helps develop treatments or a cure great, but if not, what's the point. It would just lead to despair and depression in many which just adds to their woes.

  7. So why haven't you done it already? You're going to get old and all your faculties will be ground into dust sooner or later, even without Alzheimer's.

    Maybe because you know you can still get some enjoyment, accomplishment, or meaning out of this body in the time it has left? Why wouldn't the same concept apply even with Alzheimer's looming?

  8. No. I wouldn't be living anything to the fullest, I think I would commit suicide. if I didn't have the guts to do it (most probably), I'm sure I'd die much earlier of worry, panic, stress and depression, anticipating what was going to happen to me in the future…

  9. Oh well. If it happens to me, I can always learn to forget to eat and to forget that I am hungry. Having seen it happen to multiple family members, I know I can learn this too and I have learned to accept it.

  10. The actual paper indicates there's a lot more validation to do before the testing can be used in the general population. A false positive on this test could have serious ramifications. That said, having an early test will indeed help develop a treatment so we can see the pathology of the condition.

  11. The presence of marker compounds in the blood certainly suggest that the processes that create those compounds should be investigated as a potential cause of the disease.

  12. Employment probably won't be affected, unless it also says you'll be out of it within the next year. The business ROI cycle has too short of a horizon to care.

    Insurance is an interesting question, I think you can make an argument either way that it would increase your individual rates once identified or that it will stabilize rates over the population when the companies have less uncertainty about the number of individuals at risk. In either case, you will end up getting spammed with Alzheimer's insurance and care offers once it hits the claims system.

  13. How about a test, and then a 20 year clinical trial on a preventative treatment? This isn't theoretical. Many of the treatment avenues we've come up with are hobbled because they're being applied in an advanced state of disease. Like a vaccine for clearing amyloid out of the blood before it crosses to the brain and accumulates into plaques.

    People like hope. They like to feel that they're doing something productive to solve their problems. There are actually productive things to try, so let's do that. We don't know if they'll work, but your odds are better by starting earlier.

  14. You wouldn't want to know you've got 20 decent years left to live life to the fullest?

    Knowing might be life-shattering, but maybe that's a good thing. A lot of people keep putting off enjoying life, and then discover it's too late.

  15. So, you get the test and it's positive. How does this affect employment, insurance rates? All kinds of things could be tied to this if business can get access to your records.

  16. There are suicides because people assume they will get it because a parent had it. Having the option for the test is a good thing- nobody is forcing it on you.

  17. Guess I'd get it. A positive result would be unpleasant, but I would contribute to my retirement planning. 

    And it would provide a baseline for tracking treatment success.

  18. Given there is no cure nor treatment, a test would only result in an increase in suicides.

    Give us a test, and give us a way to prevent it, then we talk about the benefits of knowing.

  19. That's great, I hope the early diagnosis will improve a treatment. The mother of a friend has been diagnosed Alzheimer :-(, I wouldn't wish it to my worst enemy.

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