New Blood Test Can Predict Alzheimer’s Before Symptoms. Do You Want to Know?

Lead researcher Howard Federoff

A recent study in Nature Magazine announced a blood test that couldåÊpredict Alzheimer’s before its characteristic symptoms emerge. The paper identified levels of 10 fats seen in the blood of people who went on to develop Alzheimer’s 2-3 years later.åÊ The test was accurate about 90% of the time in distinguishing people with healthy brains from those with the fatal disease, said Howard Federoff to USA Today. He is a professor of neurology and executive vice president for health sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center and led this work. Of course the question becomes ‘do you want to know?’ Particularly if the test shows you might get the disease, is it worse living in fear and curtailing your lifestyle waiting for the symptoms to catch up? Or is it better because it would allow you to prepare while you still have the capacity to do so? We have written many times on this blog about lifestyle changes that might help someone avoid or delay onset of the disease. From a pure science standpoint, researchers could identify likely victims years or a decade ahead of symptoms and gain new insights into how the disease wreaks havoc on the brain, while developing new drugs more likely to be effective against it. To develop the test, researchers took blood samples from 525 people age 70 and older and followed them over time, as some of them developed memory loss. By comparing the blood of 50 participants with memory loss with the blood of 50 who did not develop the disease, researchers were able to identify 10 fats that helped distinguish them. The test needs to be more widely studied before it can be used outside of clinical trials. And study participants were white. Researchers don’t yet know whether it will be as effective in other racial and ethnic groups.