Scientists at America's National Institute on Ageing have found a link between a specific protein and late-onset Alzheimer's. It is hoped that this breakthrough could one day lead to a blood test being developed that would alert doctors to Alzheimer's disease.
In the UK, late onset Alzheimer's is the most common form of the disease. It affects people over the age of 65 and accounts for 99 per cent of cases, according to the Alzheimer's Society. In the UK it is the most common form of dementia and currently around 465,000 people are said to be suffering from the disease which leads to brain damage.
As with all illnesses, doctors ideally want to have access to a test that will inform them when a patient is suffering - at the earliest possible stage and before symptoms start showing. Armed with this information, doctors may be able to administer treatment which could slow down the progress of the illness, or stop its spread for good. Alzheimer's disease can progress undiagnosed for years, and only when the symptoms become more noticeable is help sought. This is where biomarkers are playing a critical role, helping laboratory teams to track the onset and progression of the disease.
Richard J Hodes, director of the National Institute on Ageing, said advances in biomarkers are helping to streamline the trials process, and this is key to being able to discover potential therapies quicker.
Many research projects are concerned with the ultimate aim of reducing amyloid levels in the brain which is linked to Alzheimer's disease. According to a report by ABC news, this particular research project used the very latest technology to study hundreds of different types of proteins found in blood samples. The goal of the researchers was to discover if any specific protein could be linked to a build up of amyloid.
Blood samples from 57 patients not showing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease were used during the study and the results found a link between a protein called ApoE and the levels of amyloid in a patient's brain. The study showed that those people with the highest levels of ApoE, also had the highest levels of beta amyloid in their brain.
For patients and doctors alike it is reassuring to know that there are companies across the world that are investing time and money into finding new cancer biomarkers and attempting to expand their biomarkers database.