Blood test offers potential for early Alzheimer's diagnosis

Recognizing the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease early is one of the biggest challenges associated with treating the condition, but a team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic believe they have found a new method that could be a potential game changer. In findings published in the journal PLOS ONE, the team says a blood test that measures distinct metabolic signatures in blood plasma could help diagnose Alzheimer's earlier than ever before.

Relying on a new technique known as metabolomics, which measures the levels of sugars, lipids, nucleotides and amino acids in the blood, researchers analyzed the samples of 45 subjects. One-third of the participants had no cognitive decline, another third had mild cognitive impairment and the remaining subjects had Alzheimer's. After measuring changes in the plasma, researchers determined that the blood was an accurate predictor of changes to the cerebrospinal fluid. The discovery of this relationship could be a breakthrough for Alzheimer's diagnosis. 

"We want to use these biomarkers to diagnose the Alzheimer's disease before symptoms appear - which can be decades before people start exhibiting memory loss," said study co-author Dr. Eugenia Trushina. "The earlier we can detect the disease, the better treatment options we will be able to offer."

Early diagnosis can help in a wide variety of ways. Identifying symptoms of Alzheimer's allows patients and their families to make arrangements for services such as memory care and assisted living, both of which can help patients maintain their independence. Not only that, but Alzheimer's remains one of the biggest threats to healthy aging among the seniors population. According to the Alzheimer's Association, an estimated 5.4 million people have the disease, and it is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.