Blood test might predict who will develop Alzheimer's - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

Blood test might predict who will develop Alzheimer's

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UNDATED (NBC) - A blood test that can predict who is about to develop Alzheimer’s or related early memory loss up to two years before the first symptoms may be in early stages of development, researchers believe.

Many scientists have tried, and failed, to come up with a test that can predict Alzheimer’s. But this one, developed by teams at Georgetown University and the University of Rochester, seems especially accurate.

“This is the first time a highly sensitive and specific test has been able to predict who will become demented,” says Dr. Howard Federoff of Georgetown, who helped lead the research published in the journal Nature Medicine.

"Sensitive and specific" means the test misses very few people who did go on to develop Alzheimer’s or the memory loss that precedes it. And there were no “false negatives.”

“We did not find any individual that didn’t test positive that became demented,” Federoff said.

The need is urgent. Alzheimer’s affects more than 5 million Americans and it’s projected to soar to 13 million over the next 35 years. A study published earlier this month suggested it’s a big killer, taking down more than 500,000 Americans every year.

“They tried the therapies too late. We need to find people earlier.”

There’s no cure and not even a good treatment. Many different approaches have been unsuccessful. “It’s frustrating,” Federoff says. But Federoff and other experts think if people could be treated before they develop symptoms, before the brain damage is so bad, it might be possible to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s.

“They tried the therapies too late. We need to find people earlier,” Federoff said.

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