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New Blood Test May Help Predict Alzheimer's Risk

A new study says that the blood test may help identify someone’s risk of developing progressive dementia

<p>Getty Images</p> An elderly woman

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An elderly woman's hand being held by a doctor
  • A blood test for a protein called phosphorylated tau 217 could help identify someone's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease

  • The protein increases in the body at the same time as beta-amyloid, which is believed to be the cause of Alzheimer's

  • Early treatment of Alzheimer's disease is key to help slow its progression

Finding out if you’re at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease could be as simple as taking a blood test.

A protein called beta-amyloid is believed to be a cause of the progressive dementia that characterizes Alzheimer’s disease. However, there is another protein, called phosphorylated tau 217 (or p-tau217, for short), that increases in the body at the same time.

Unlike beta-amyloid, which requires a spinal tap or PET scan to identify, this other protein can be identified in the blood, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“What was impressive with these results is that the blood test was just as accurate as advanced testing like cerebrospinal fluid tests and brain scans at showing Alzheimer’s disease pathology in the brain,” Nicholas Ashton, a professor of neurochemistry at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and one of the study’s lead authors, told CNN.

<p>Getty Images</p> A nurse preparing to draw blood from a patient

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A nurse preparing to draw blood from a patient

The study followed 786 people who had completed spinal taps or brain scans. “One-third of our participants were classified as cognitively impaired,” the study said.

The researchers found that “p-tau217 demonstrated high accuracy in predicting abnormal [beta-amyloid].”

Related: Hidden Belly Fat Linked to Developing Alzheimer's Disease, Study Says

“These results emphasize the important role of plasma p-tau217 as an initial screening tool in the management of cognitive impairment by underlining those who may benefit from antiamyloid immunotherapies,” the study says.

That means those who are identified as at risk of developing Alzheimer’s could begin preventative treatment like Leqembi.

As the authors point out in their study, “validated blood biomarkers are urgently needed to guide timely treatment decisions.”

Treating Alzheimer’s early is important, as drugs like Lequembi are shown to slow the progression of the disease in “patients with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia stage of disease.”

Related: Where You Live Might Increase Your Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s, New Research Says

“People get cholesterol tests before they have a heart attack. People get cholesterol tests before they have a stroke. To me, this type of test will eventually be best served in people before they start to have cognitive symptoms,” preventive neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of research at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Florida, told CNN.

“By following the pTau217 level over time, we can better understand how various therapies and lifestyle changes are working to keep Alzheimer’s under better control,” Isaacson further noted.

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