Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Alzheimer’s afflicts 6.5 million Americans, and for many years, the only way to get confirmation of diagnoses was through a spinal tap. Simple blood tests have now hit the market and represent a powerful tool in finding a diagnosis. The blood test can detect small amounts of abnormal proteins, including a sticky version called amyloid beta. This determines whether pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s are present in the brain.
“If you had asked me five years ago if we would have a blood test that could reliably detect plaques and tangles in the brain, I would have said it was unlikely,” said Gil Rabinovici, a neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco. “I am glad I was wrong about that.”
The blood tests bring hope that a transformation of Alzheimer’s research and treatment could be on the way. While the tests are primarily being used in clinical trials, they are already contributing to expedited research. However, they are not immune to stirring controversy, leaving some doctors skeptical, debating ethical questions like, who should get the test? When is the right time? How accurate are they? Do people really want to know they have Alzheimer’s?
Biogen Inc. and Eisai Co. have partnered together on experimental drug, lecanemab, which they say significantly slowed symptoms of Alzheimer’s. This makes it the first medicine to blunt progression of dementia in a largely definitive study, which has bolstered hope for treatments that could remove amyloid plaques from the brain. If the FDA approves these treatments, the demand for these blood tests could skyrocket.
For more information see Laurie McGinley “Is it Alzheimers? Families want to know, and blood tests may offer answers”, The Washington Post, November 17, 2022
Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.
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