Alzheimer’s disease could soon be detected by a simple blood test, following the development of a new technique by  U.S. scientists.

Florida researchers said Thursday that they tried a new way of testing the immune system’s response to abnormal substances, known as antigens, released during diseases like Alzheimer’s and identified a pattern of antibodies specific to Alzheimer’s.

The method could also be used to test for early stages of other diseases, including multiple sclerosis, neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and various forms of cancer.

Dr. Thomas Kodadek, the research leader from the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, is now using the technique to develop a test for pancreatic cancer, in which early diagnosis is critical to survival.

“I don’t want my enthusiasm to get too far ahead of the data, but it sure seems to be a general approach that would work for any disease to which the immune system responds," Kodadek said. "If this works in Alzheimer’s disease, it suggests it is a pretty good platform that may work for a lot of different diseases."

He added, "Now we need to put it in the hands of disease experts to tackle diseases where early diagnosis is the key."

The research, published in the journal Cell, involved testing the blood of people with Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease and a number of healthy individuals. Molecules called peptoids were then used to test antibodies, and the researchers discovered three that appeared to identify Alzheimer’s sufferers, in a development they believe could form the basis for a blood test.

“This breaks the dogma that antibodies are such specialized receptors that they are only going to bind to native antigens.

It turns out you can screen for them with peptoids that work as an antigen surrogate,” Kodadek said.