It is often difficult to pinpoint when you may develop Alzheimer’s disease. However, a new test is in the works to not only identify the disease but also differentiate it from the different types of Dementia; a neurodegenerative disorder.

We may have had or have a loved one who had or have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, an underrated disease which we generally pay little attention too; leaving the chronic diseases as the ones with the highest priority. Of course, it is understandable why chronic diseases would take precedence over Alzheimer’s.

However, cognitive disorders are just as bad and do require just as much attention. A number of tests for Alzheimer’s are currently present but could blood-testing be even more efficient than the current tests?

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive or mental degeneration of the brain that occurs in middle-aged and older individuals.

“We think the disease begins with a build-up of amyloid beta which is the ‘bad-guys’ that start this,” says Lisa Genova, a Neuroscientist.

Basically, these ‘bad guys’ are supposed to be normally released into space between two neurons and be cleared away. However, a build-up occurs and sticks to the surface forming amyloid plaques and once this build-up increases, it can lead to the death of the neuron which is like a lit match.

Alzheimer’s disease usually has no warning signs and can be dormant for a period of 10 to 12 years.

How is it diagnosed?

The most conclusive test and current gold standard for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is a post-mortem examination of the patient’s brain- daunting, isn’t it? Other tests may include expensive scans which can be tedious for the patient and also be draining.

The aim of early diagnosis is to be able to apply an intervention which can slow the progress of the disease; this can be life-changing for an individual. This need for early detection has now become top-priority for researchers and as such, they have now developed a blood-testing procedure as a possible form of diagnosis, though it is still in the works.

Blood-testing to be a tool of early diagnosis

A study was done to prove this new form of diagnosis in which 347 participants with the neurodegenerative disease were selected and 202 healthy people were also selected to stand a comparison. Blood samples were taken from all participants and the samples were analyzed with infrared spectroscopy which was able to show chemical bonds in the blood that were either indicative or not of neuro-degenerative diseases. It was also able to show what kind of neurodegenerative disease was present as well; therefore, allowing for a more specialized approach.

Results showed 80 per cent sensitivity (those with the disease) and 74 per cent specificity (those without the disease).

Later stages of the disease were also noted as 86 per cent for both sensitivity and specificity. The cost of this procedure is negligible as opposed to the gold standards and other tests currently on the market. Though, the accuracy of this test is not yet high enough; more studies are being done to improve its effectiveness and therefore provide a life-changing phenomenon for those with neuro-degenerative diseases.

It will take time for this simple yet diverse method to be able to do its job to 100 per cent but the pilot studies and results thus far have proven what can be achieved with this new method and how modern medicine can be applied to slow the progression of this awful disease upon early detection. By using a wide range of biological signals which include but are not limited to blood; cerebro-spinal fluids and saliva, a lot can be accomplished for this once baffling disease.