NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A breakthrough in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease has just been presented at an international Alzheimer’s Association conference.

It’s a long-sought blood test that can accurately identify the degenerative brain disease.

As CBS2’S Dr. Max Gomez reports, there are already some tests to diagnose Alzheimer’s, but they are expensive, invasive, and not widely available. This new blood test looks like it will make diagnosis simple, affordable, and widely available.

The blood test developed and tested by a group of Alzheimer’s researchers from Sweden, Colombia and the U.S. appear to very accurately detect and predict who has got Alzheimer’s disease in their brain, even when the person seems to be normal.

The research, also published in JAMA Network Open, showed that the test could distinguish between Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. It could even detect signs of Alzheimer’s 20 years before cognitive problems were expected in Colombian families with a genetic form of early Alzheimer’s.

The test measures a sub-type of the tau protein, called P-TAU217, that’s found in tangles throughout the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. It was as accurate or better than MRIs, PET scans and spinal taps, and nearly as good as post-mortem brain autopsies.

Such a blood test could speed the hunt for new Alzheimer’s therapies by making it faster and cheaper to screen patients for clinical trials.

The researchers estimated the test could be available in 2-3 years but that would lead to ethical and emotional dilemmas for people deciding whether they want to know they had a disease that does not yet have a cure or effective treatment. Hopefully, this test will accelerate that research.

The Alzheimer’s Association finds nearly six million people in the U.S. and roughly 30 million worldwide have Alzheimer’s. Their ranks are expected to more than double by 20-50 as the population ages.


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