One of the most challenging aspects of diagnosing and managing dementia is detecting the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). But a promising new blood test has potential for early Alzheimer’s detection — before the disease progresses to the point of irreversible neurological damage and associated cognitive and functional decline. 

Limitations of current Alzheimer’s detection

Currently validated methods1 of measuring amyloid deposition biomarkers are limited to PET scans and measuring a ratio based on amyloid beta in cerebrospinal fluid (CST A.42/A.40) — and neither is practical. 

PET scanning is considered the “gold standard” due to its accuracy. However, it’s infeasible as a routine screening method due to the expense, effort required, and limited capacity. A spinal tap to measure amyloid beta ratios in cerebrospinal fluid is an invasive procedure with significant risk, making it equally unsuitable for widespread screening purposes. 

The lack of early risk detection compromises enrollment in AD clinical trials for potential treatments, as well as vigorous early-stage intervention in modifiable risk factors known to influence cognitive health.

New Alzheimer’s detection method shows potential

This summer, a report2 described a new blood test for AD using mass spectrometry to measure the 42/40 amyloid beta ratio, which showed promising accuracy in detecting AD development, with risk adjustments for age and APOE4 presence adding substantial accuracy to the test. Comparing the blood markers to PET scan results, and the authors reported 94% accuracy in predicting AD development. Interestingly, results that looked like initial false-positives turned out to identify AD risk missed by imaging.

Combining with cognitive assessment for added insight

While additional validation and commercialization efforts will likely delay availability in clinical practice for some years, we have reason to be optimistic for routine AD risk screening via blood test in the near future. When this accurate blood test becomes available, concurrent assessment of cognitive function will be essential for tracking changes in functional capacity with lab values. 

As an inexpensive, validated, and easy-to-use assessment platform, BrainCheck is well positioned to serve that function. Until then, BrainCheck’s cognitive assessment tools can assist physicians today as a diagnostic aid for identifying and tracking dementing illnesses — optimally while medical and lifestyle interventions may still have benefit.

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About the author

Robert Cuyler, PhD

Robert Cuyler is a clinical psychologist with decades of clinical, management and consulting experience. He is a Clinical Advisor at BrainCheck and the chief clinical officer of Palo Alto Health Sciences. He previously served as the CEO of JSA Health Telepsychiatry and clinical advisor to MDLive/Breakthrough Behavioral. Dr. Cuyler received his Ph.D. in psychology from Louisiana State University and his postdoctoral fellowship from the Menninger Foundation.

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