Blood test to predict Alzheimer’s coming soon
There is already a genetic test that can tell you if you are at a greater risk for getting dementia at some point in your life. But it cannot tell you when or even if you will get the disease. A new study came out of London, and it leads many to ask a simple question: would you want to know? Dementia runs on both sides of County Supervisor Dave Robert’s family. His mother’s mother and his father’s mother both had a form of the mind-robbing disease.
“You watch someone you spent your whole life with, developed memories with, and to see that wiped away… no recognition that you are a relative, it makes it really difficult,” said Roberts.
So, if he could take a blood test to find out if he will get the disease that took both of his grandmothers, would he? Yes, he says, for his family, for his partner and kids.
“As the father of 5 young children, I’d want to make sure i’ve done everything possible to watch out for the future. Our youngest is five – you have to make sure you do a living trust, and will whatever other precautions you take.”
A new study by British scientists identified proteins in the blood that could predict the onset of Alzheimer’s. Those findings may lead to the creation of a blood test that could identify patients earlier in the disease process, perhaps helping them as it progresses.
“Each of these tests is getting closer, hoping within months of year develop a better test that’s more refined,” said Dr. Stuart Lipton of the Sanford Burnham Research Institute in La Jolla.
Lipton’s institute developed the last FDA-approved drug for Alzheimer’s called Memantine, or Namenda, 10 years ago. He says researchers have a better understanding of the biochemical changes in the brain now. And although many doctors are leaning toward treating people before they present symptoms of dementia, he’s continuing to focus on those who struggle with the disease now.
“I haven’t given up on those people. I think we have to identify the right targets, but I think we are 5 to 10 years away before we get to a drug that’s going to protect the synapses that the disease is modifying.”
Both Supervisor Roberts and Dr. Lipton are part of the new countywide Alzheimer’s initiative which has three goals: help researchers find a cure, provide more dementia education and identify gaps in care to expand services. And it’s needed: Alzheimer’s is the third leading cause of death in San Diego County.