Medical researchers have designed an experimental blood test that can predict Alzheimer’s disease before it fully develops.
The disease was detected through plasma phospholipids, which researchers said was more convenient in comparison to costly methods like spinal taps or PET scans.
“They decided to start with fats, since it was the easiest and least expensive,” according to a report by CNN. “They drew blood from hundreds of healthy people over age 70 living near Rochester, New York, and Irvine, California. Five years later, 28 of the seniors had developed Alzheimer’s disease or the mild cognitive problems that usually precede it.”
Researchers discovered that compared to healthy seniors, the group had low levels of 10 lipids. This same scenario also matched 54 other seniors who were known to have the disease.
The results were astonishing, especially since the blood test was 90 percent accurate. It also revealed that the Alzheimer’s process starts earlier than expected, causing a person to lose lipids as they lose brain cells.
Neuropsychologists at the University of Rochester Medical Center plan to take the experiment even further and test people younger than 70. Doctors say that this would definitely keep them two-steps ahead of the game, and therefore, could be beneficial in treating the disease ahead of time.
But, is it beneficial for a person to know that someday they will be completely memory impaired?
Knowing what the future holds would be a “very personal decision” for the patient says Dr. Howard Federoff, who is the senior author of the report and a neurologist at Georgetown University Medical Center.
According to NPR, a University of Pennsylvania professor believes that awareness of the disease could have conflicting effects on a person’s life.
“Knowing their risk of developing cognitive impairment is very relevant to making plans around retirement and where they live,” said Dr. Jason Karlawish, a professor of medicine and health policy at the university.
However, he was later quoted: “How will other people interact with you if they learn that you have this information? And how will you think about your own brain and your sort of sense of self?”
Federoff suggested that counseling would be best for someone who decides to take this route, but that the decision should be carefully considered.
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