Dementia is diagnosed in around 44.4 million people worldwide, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most prevalent type. What’s frightening is this number is set to almost double by the year 2030 due to the growth of the elderly population. Although this shows how health and associated health care has improved extensively over the years, it also underlines the need for more effective treatments or cures to improve the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s.
Whilst treatments can only reduce symptoms or slow the progression of the disease, British scientists have been promising in developing a blood test which can be used to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Although this isn’t a cure, it still has major implications, playing a part in early diagnosis and treatment as well as assisting clinical research for more effective therapies.
The study identified differences in the blood of healthy individuals, those with mild cognitive impairment and those with Alzheimer’s disease. From this they were able to identify those with cognitive impairment who would develop Alzheimer’s in the next year, with 87% accuracy.
Symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s display around 10 years after the onset of the disease itself, meaning treatment is often initiated too late. However this study could hold potential for predicting early diagnosis which could lead to earlier treatment and a beneficial effect on an individual’s condition.
Whilst this research gives hope to early diagnosis, some individuals may find the thought of knowing such a future daunting and it could even lead to the development of anxiety and depression (potentially worsening the outcome of the disease itself). However the associated risk of misdiagnosis when scaled up to the general population means it will not be used as a screening tool as of yet.
Additionally, research in relation to an effective treatment or cure cannot be underestimated, as the diagnosis of this disease is only set to grow, yet funding for dementia is still substantially lower than that of many other long term conditions. Whilst this study holds promise to the early prediction of Alzheimer’s disease, more research is still required. However it may be prove to be invaluable in assisting clinical trials to find an effective treatment or cure.
Adie Blanchard – Researcher