A new blood test may identify more than 80% of people with increased likelihood of having amyloid in the brain, a protein that’s a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent study that was presented this week at Boston’s international Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease conference.
In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, the amyloid protein clumps together to form plaques that collect between neurons to disrupt cellular function, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Because these plaques accumulate in patients’ brains before the signs and symptoms appear of Alzheimer’s disease, a positron emission tomography (PET) scan is traditionally ordered to identify those at most risk, according to a recent report.
C₂N Diagnostics, however, developed a blood test called PrecivityAD that accurately predicts the level of amyloid that was on a PET scan 81% of the time.
"Blood-based screening is a giant leap forward in detecting changes in the brain among people who do not yet show memory loss symptoms," said Dr. Reisa Sperling, director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women's Hospital and co-principal investigator for the study, according to a statement.
The blood test will be used for the first time in a clinical trial with the goal of preventing the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in a study called the AHEAD study, according to a report.
"The AHEAD Study tests whether an investigational treatment can slow or stop the earliest brain changes due to Alzheimer’s disease in people with a higher risk of developing the disease later in life," according to the study’s website.
Dr. Sperling notes another goal is to recruit a diverse population of participants hoping the screening blood test will lower barriers to participate in the study because people of color are often underrepresented in Alzheimer trials.
The study is funded by NIH and Eisai, and is enrolling 1,165 participants between the ages of 55 and 80 from North America in over 75 research centers across the U.S. and Canada.
Other diagnostic blood tests currently being evaluated to predict Alzheimer’s disease measure blood levels of a different protein called phospho-tau181 that also contributes to the development of Alzheimer's disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.
"There is an urgent need for simple, inexpensive, non-invasive and easily available diagnostic tools for Alzheimer's," Maria C. Carrillo, the Alzheimer's Association chief science officer, told a news outlet.
The PrecivityAD blood test costs $1,250 (but with financial assistance can decrease out-of-pocket expenses to about $25 to $400), whereas PET scan scans costs around $5,000 and are not typically covered by insurance, according to a report.
The blood test would produce faster results that cost less than PET scans, which is currently the gold standard for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, Carrillo said.
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