Old people
A new blood test can help identify healthy people at greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers say.mollybob/Flickr

A new blood test can help identify people at greater risk of Alzheimer's disease, researchers say.  

The test, which works by identifying 10 fats (lipids) in the blood, is said to be more than 90 percent accurate in predicting the risk of having a mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease, in the next three years.

For the study, a team of researchers from the Georgetown University Medical Center in the US followed 525 healthy people, aged 70 and above, for five years. Researchers tested blood samples collected from the participants at different periods of the study. Of the total, 74 were identified to be at a greater risk of Alzheimer's disease or amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). Amnestic mild cognitive impairment, a well-known risk factor for Alzheimer's, is a condition that leads to severe memory problems, compared to normal.

To confirm the link, researchers compared blood samples of 53 patients at greater risk of these diseases with another group of 53 healthy people. People at higher risk of these brain conditions had higher levels of 10 lipids, early biomarkers of the disease in their blood. Presence of these lipids in the blood was due to the breakdown of neural cell membranes in participants, researchers said, while explaining the occurrence. They re-confirmed their findings by testing rest of the patients (21) and comparing them to the healthy controls.

"The lipid panel was able to distinguish with 90 percent accuracy these two distinct groups: cognitively normal participants who would progress to MCI or AD within two to three years, and those who would remain normal in the near future," said corresponding author of the study, Dr Howard J. Federoff,  professor of neurology and executive vice president for health sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center, in a news release.

An effort to beat the brain disease that leads to the destruction of memory and other important functions of the brain has been going on for a long time. Currently, there hardly exists any test to diagnose the condition early. According to experts, a person starts getting clinical symptoms only around 10 years after the disease starts developing. Doctors diagnose it through symptoms and testing thyroid disorder, vitamin deficiency, brain imaging and neuropsychological factors. The whole procedure takes time to give an accurate diagnosis, thus delaying the treatment and possibility of recovery. So the discovery, reported in the journal Nature Medicine, is expected to help develop an effective treatment for the disease.

(Edited by Vishnuprasad S Pillai)