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Early-stage Alzheimer's blood test on U.K. team's agenda

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Scientists at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. assert that they're developing a quick blood test for early-stage Alzheimer's. The goal, according to a BBC story on the finding, is a diagnostic that would enable earlier intervention, as well as a personalized drug treatment best suited for the individual patient.

The BBC reports that a team from the university outlined their approach at the recent Alzheimer's Research UK conference. As they described, their test would screen for a number of biomarkers simultaneously, including amyloid and APOE--two proteins long connected to Alzheimer's--and other proteins tied to inflammation that researchers are increasingly connecting to the neurodegenerative disease. Simply put, the test, if successful, would screen for those biomarkers to tell the difference between otherwise healthy people and patients who have developed Alzheimer's.

Researchers came up with the tentative test by screening blood samples from Alzheimer's patients, both advanced and with early signs of memory decline.

So what would an early-stage diagnostic test accomplish? Quite a bit, argued the University of Nottingham's Kevin Morgan.  Alzheimer's treatments at the later stage of the disease haven't gained much traction, so the focus is increasingly on detecting Alzheimer's early in its advance. The idea, by doing so, is to find a drug that could arrest Alzheimer's decline before it leaves too much damage in its wake. Additionally, Morgan told the BBC, he sees the test as enabling the best possible treatment for each individual patient, based on which Alzheimer's biomarker is flagged.

Even more compelling, the researchers see their blood test as a potential way to cheaply and easily diagnose Alzheimer's before symptoms develop. But it could be a while before they carry their test through development and human testing and into patients; they estimate the process could take about 10 years.

- read the BBC story

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