A new study suggest that all one might have to do in order to find out whether or not they’re vulnerable to Alzheimer’s is take a blood test. It’s all thanks to a team of scientists at the King’s College in London, who recently identified a blood protein that indicates if a person is vulnerable to developing Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).
Mild Cognitive Impairment is a mental disorder that’s been linked by experts to an elevated risk of developing mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.
What’s even more remarkable is that the warning does not just come a few months or a year before symptoms start to show, but can be predicted with ten (10) years in advance. The study, published earlier today (June 17, 2015), in the journal Translational Psychiatry, is the largest of its kind.
The researchers looked at more than 100 pairs of identical twins (more than 200 subjects) in order to prove that the link between the blood protein and the ten year warning was not affected by age or genetic structures. They used a test known as SOMAscan to analyze roughly 1.000 blood proteins as it allowed them to simultaniously measure high volumes of proteins.
The team then looked at each subject’s cognitive ability before comparing the test results to the level of each protein in the blood. They concluded that a protein known as MAPKAPK5 was found in lower quantities in blood of subjects who had lost part of their cognitive ability during the course of ten (10) years.
The test is still in the early stage, however the authors have high hopes for it someday becoming wide-spread and benefit people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s, before they get to the point where they start to show symptoms.
Dr Steven Kiddle, lead author and Biostatistics Research Fellow at the MRC Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College, gave a statement saying that “Although we are still searching for an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, what we do know is that prevention of the disease is likely to be more effective than trying to reverse it”.
To this day, there are no treatments that can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s from setting in, and the only tests that have proven to give some warning of the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms start to show are Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) brain scans.
The main problems with the above mentioned tests is that they are very expensive, as well as time consuming, both being resources that most people can’t afford to waste. So more often than not, patients suffering from the condition only get diagnosed once they start to have trouble remembering things. This affects how well treatments can help them manage the disease and drastically shortens the amount of time that their loved ones have to prepare and figure out how to better help the patients.
The next step for the researchers is to replicate their findings in an independent study in order to confirm whether or not the test truly is specific to Alzheimer’s disease.
So far the study has been well received by the scientific community.
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