It may soon be possible to detect Alzheimer's disease with a simple blood test, say researchers.
The team from the University of Georgia, the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Centre in Augusta and the Medical College of Georgia have found a direct relationship between two specific antibodies and the severity of Alzheimer's disease symptoms.
They found that concentration of two specific proteins that are involved in the immune response increases as the severity of dementia increases.
"We found a strong and consistent relationship between two particular antibodies and the level of impairment," said study co-author L. Stephen Miller, professor and director of clinical psychology training in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
"The finding brings us closer to our ultimate goal of developing a blood test that can diagnose Alzheimer's disease or potentially identify if someone is at higher risk for the disease," he added.
During the study, the team focused on antibodies that the body creates in response to two proteins that are associated with Alzheimer's disease.
One protein, known as amyloid-beta, forms the plaques that are evident in the brains of people with Alzheimer's upon autopsy. The other protein, known as RAGE, is involved in the normal aging process but is expressed at higher levels in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.
"Alzheimer's is an inflammatory disease of the brain, and these two antibodies give us a way to measure that inflammation," said Shyamala Mruthinti, research pharmacologist at the VA Medical Centre and adjunct professor at MCG.
"Using them as an early diagnostic marker may allow us to start drug treatment early, when it's most effective, to increase the patient's quality of life," he added.
To further test the strength of the relationship, the researchers are now working with a sample that controls for other factors that have the potential to influence levels of the two antibodies, such as diabetes and heart disease.
The study appears in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.