LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A study has found the first evidence suggesting that a simple blood test could be used to diagnose a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, UCLA researchers reported Thursday.

An estimated five million people in the nation living with the neurodegenerative disorder.

Despite these numbers, there’s no reliable blood test to diagnose patients with the disease.

“Blood-based biomarkers would have the important advantage of being safe, affordable and easy to administer in large groups or in rural areas, and
therefore could have an enormous impact on clinical care and clinical trials alike,” said Dr. Liana G. Apostolova, director of the neuroimaging laboratory at the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research at UCLA and head of the research team.

Doctors say the only way to definitely prove the presence of Alzheimer’s is by examining brain tissue after death.

Physicians currently diagnose living patients by testing their beta-amyloid formation to see if it’s consistent with the disease.

There are two ways to do that and both have their drawbacks, researchers say. Doctors can use cerebrospinal fluid, an invasive option that requires a spinal tap and carries the risk of nerve damage and other side effects. Another method is the amyloid PET scan, which is effective but exposes the patient to radiation. It’s also expensive and most insurance companies don’t cover it as a diagnostic test.

Apostolova says a simple blood test would be a much more convenient diagnostic tool. Now it only needs to be developed.

“Our study suggests that blood protein panels can be used to establish the presence of Alzheimer’s-type pathology of the brain in a safe and minimally
invasive manner,” Apostolova said. “We need to further refine and improve on the power of this signature by introducing new disease-related metrics, but this indicates that such a test is feasible and could be on the market before long.”

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