This is a great day for patients at risk of developing Alzheimer's. This new test presented by a team from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine really solidifies other studies that have looked at potential biomarkers in patients with Alzheimer's disease.
The test is very straightforward for the patient. The first step is to undergo a spinal tap, which involves inserting a very thin needle into the patient's back and extracting cerebral spinal fluid from the spine. This is a similar technique to what many patients undergo when they get regional anesthesia for certain surgical procedures. It has minimal pain and minimal side effects, including headaches, which tend to be relieved with treatment.
Once the fluid is extracted, these doctors analyze the fluid for certain proteins, which have been already identified in patients with Alzheimer's. One of those proteins is called tau and the other is amyloid beta42. These proteins correlate with the build-up of plaque in the patient's brain, which leads over time to the degenerative effect of Alzheimer's.
In the study's results, the test accurately ruled out Alzheimer's in 92.4 percent of subjects. I think that this study could lead to the test's possible use in clinical settings especially to diagnose early cognitive impairments which could ultimately lead to Alzheimer's in families with risk factors.