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Scientists take a significant step towards an early warning blood test for Alzheimer's


July 10, 2014

In addition to early detection, it is hoped that the new blood test will lead to significant advancement in avenues of treatment for Alzheimer's (Photo: Shutterstock)

In addition to early detection, it is hoped that the new blood test will lead to significant advancement in avenues of treatment for Alzheimer's (Photo: Shutterstock)

An international collaboration of scientists led by King's College London (KCL) and Proteome Sciences plc has identified a combination of 10 proteins found in human blood cells which may lead to an accurate early warning test for Alzheimer's. An increased ability to detect this debilitating disease at an early stage has the potential to greatly improve quality of life and may even lead to new clinical trials developing new avenues of treatment designed to stop the disease in its tracks.

It is estimated that by the year 2050, Alzheimer's disease will effect roughly 135 million people worldwide. Ordinarily the disease progresses from a state of mental illness known as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), currently there is no accurate early warning test in circulation with the ability to discern which individuals with MCI will develop Alzheimer's disease.

While there are currently medical procedures with the ability to indicate the onset of Alzheimer's, such as a brain scan or lumbar puncture, these methods are both invasive and expensive, making them difficult to implement on a wide scale. However, a new study led by the team from KCL has the potential to change all of this, with the results possibly leading to a cheap, non-invasive early warning test that could be applied to a much broader range of patients.

The study, partially funded by Alzheimer's Research UK, is the largest of its type ever undertaken, examining over 1,000 individuals. The group was made up of 476 patients suffering from the Alzheimer's disease, 220 with MCI and 452 elderly persons (included to act as a control group). Individuals selected from across all three of the groups were also selected for an additional MRI scan.

The researchers discovered that out of 16 proteins synonymous with brain shrinkage in MCI and Alzheimer's patients, a combination of 10 such proteins when found together where able to predict with an accuracy of 87 percent that an individual with MCI will develop the Alzheimer's disease within a year. Therefore by creating a blood test designed to detect these 10 proteins, the disease can be caught and managed early, thus enhancing the potential for a greater quality of life for Alzheimer's sufferers.

Looking to the future, the team will select a commercial partner with the capacity to create the blood test detecting the proteins which, once viable on a commercial scale, will grant the ability to detect the crippling disease with an efficiency hitherto unobtainable under current practices. Furthermore it is hoped that such an early warning test will lead to significant advancement in avenues of treatment for the disease, as it is believed that many potentially viable clinical trials for Alzheimer's fail due to the disease being too far advanced in its target subjects.

A paper detailing the research has been published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association (PDF).

Source: King's College London

About the Author
Anthony Wood Anthony is a recent law school graduate who also has a degree in Ancient History, for some reason or another. Residing in the UK, Anthony has had a passion about anything space orientated from a young age and finds it baffling that we have yet to colonize the moon. When not writing he can be found watching American football and growing out his magnificent beard. All articles by Anthony Wood

If you look carefully at the numbers, this test would have a 92% false positive rate. And even if it were a sound test, there is no known treatment or cure for Alzheimer's, so the knowledge would not save or improve any lives, but would instead destroy considerable quality of life.

This is how the for-profit medical industry works. Misleading statistics, phoney "advances" and nonsense science, but all very, very profitable and all very uncaring of the patient who pays and pays and pays.

This is exactly what the world needs, a test that is far less reliable than flipping a coin, which diagnoses an untreatable condition, which puts billions more in the pockets of the for-profit medical industry. Good luck with that.

Add to that a recent Bayer study that showed that the vast majority of such "discoveries" cannot be replicated and are often such shoddy science as to be tantamount to fraud.


Looking at the numbers – how did you determine the 92% false positive rate? Would you care to share your math?

One problem researchers have had in investigating Alzheimer’s is knowing which patients will develop Alzheimer’s and which will not or which will have other mental impairments. Prevention is likely easier to achieve than cure. This test is a start. It is likely that it will get refined. It is also likely that other tests will be developed that will be better.

The Bayer study says that a large majority of the small sample of studies they investigated, that were done by non-profit academics could not be replicated.

There is intense career pressure for academic studies to succeed. Magazines typically will not publish negative results, even though they can be very useful and important. If you run six experiments and one gives you the results you were hoping for do you only publish that one and ignore the rest. This is not good science, but it is unfortunately, human nature. This system needs to be changed.

On the for-profit side you can spend a billion dollars developing a drug that has the potential to save 10,000 lives a year. When you finally get it approved and it is now used in a much larger population (millions) than you were able to use in the approval trials you find that additional complications arise. Maybe even fatal consequences. Now a drug that costs a billion to develop and has saved 10,000 lives a year for the past three years gets pulled because 10 deaths have been associated with its use. Now we are back to killing the 9,997 people a year we could be saving to protect the few dozen (or even hundreds) that have adverse reactions and the three that die. This system needs to be changed.


"... the decease can be caught and managed early." Managed is jargon for financially exploited without any benefit to the patient and possibly much harm.

"First, do no harm" has become "make as much money as possible". Doctors are businesspersons who take no responsibility for harmful unnecessary treatments. They can always claim good intentions. The AMA will protect them.

Don Duncan
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