(Katherine Ellen Foley/ Quartz) — Although doctors can use brain scans or spinal taps to detect Alzheimer’s in patients with symptoms, there’s no way to test for the disease in seemingly healthy individuals. Yet Alzheimer’s can degrade the brain for years—even decades—before a person recognizes anything is wrong. The inability to detect Alzheimer’s early is one main reason pharmaceutical companies have not been able to develop a drug to combat the disease, which is the most common form of dementia.
Researchers from Washington University at St. Louis and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Tübingen have developed a simple blood test that shows evidence of brain damage due to Alzheimer’s almost seven years before any kind of cognitive changes occur. Theoretically, this test could be used to find patients who will go on to develop the disease, so that in the near future they could be enrolled in drug trials, and in the long term, could be saved from developing dementia. Their work was published Jan. 21 in Nature Medicine. (…)