Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found that the presence of a set of proteins in blood serum could be an accurate way to detect Alzheimer's disease.
An analysis of the proteins, plus a clinical exam, proved 94 percent accurate in detecting suspected Alzheimer's and 84 percent accurate in ruling it out in people without the disease, the researchers said.
"This research uses a novel technology that makes it possible to analyze several biomarkers in a single blood sample in a cost-effective way," said Dr. RamĒn DĄaz-Arrastia, professor of neurology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study.
Alzheimer's disease is an incurable degenerative brain disease, which currently afflicts about 5.3 million people over 65 in the U.S., according to the National Alzheimer's Association. By 2050 that number is expected to reach 11 million or more.
The disease is difficult to diagnose, particularly in its early stages when it resembles other cognitive problems. Currently, a definitive diagnosis is possible only after examining the brain tissue of deceased individuals.
Tests for suspected Alzheimer's are often expensive or invasive, and not every patient is able or willing to undergo them, the researchers stated.
Researchers associated with the Texas Alzheimer's Research Consortium, a five-university group funded by the state, carried out the research.
In the current study, the scientists analyzed blood samples from 197 Texas patients who had suspected Alzheimer's and 203 people without the disease.
The researchers measured more than 100 blood proteins and created a mathematical analysis that could measure a person's risk of having Alzheimer's.
Neither the blood test nor a clinical exam alone was as accurate on its own as the blood test and clinical exam combined, the researchers found.
The study was published in the September issue of the Archives of Neurology.