In a time where undiagnosed health issues are at the top of our list of worries, the Alzheimer’s research community is, once again, helping us have some peace of mind. Researchers at the University of San Francisco (USF) have managed to pinpoint a protein that could be linked to cognitive impairment and decline. The protein, formally called pTau181, was found to have levels 3.5 times higher in the bloodstreams of Alzheimer’s patients than those of their healthy peers. With researchers saying that the new test has a similar accuracy than current PET scans and lumbar punctures in distinguishing Alzheimer's from frontotemporal dementia, this new way of testing could be a game-changer.
What could this mean for current patients?
While the test won’t directly affect current patients of the disease, the findings will surely go a long way in the study of proteins and their involvement in the disease. In fact, current research in this area is providing ‘a very promising avenue of investigation’. A study by the University of Bristol was able to identify a decrease in the levels of a particular protein called ‘Dynamin related protein 1’ (Dpr1) in the prefrontal cortex of patients’ brains. More recently, researchers at St. Jude Children’s Hospital have been able to pinpoint a pathway in microglial cells, the primary immune cells of the brain and central nervous system, that may be prone to a buildup of a harmful protein linked with Alzheimer’s.
With USF’s results adding to a now growing list of positive results coming from this area of the industry, it’s becoming more and more likely that we could see some sort of treatment developed from protein research. What current patients can do now, in the meantime, is starting to consider the possibility of involving themselves in protein-related trials; as a lack of participation, as demonstrated in clinical trials across the board, could be the difference of finding a cure in several years rather than a decade.
What could this mean for everyone?
Besides providing an innovative and time-effective method of diagnosis in the future, the successful introduction of blood testing could mean a wealth of savings for health services everywhere if the technique is employed globally. With PET scans costing around $5000+, if testing could be costed around the average for general procedures, which is about $755, we may be looking at some serious savings. And, according to these estimations, this could signal an end to those extortionate medical bills that most Alzheimer’s patients and their families are unfortunately all too familiar with.
While we wait for approval by the FDA, we can find some peace of mind in the knowledge that USF’s research is bringing us ever closer to finding not only a treatment for Alzheimer’s, but an accurate method of early detection. In these troubling times, early detection of underlying health conditions is our top priority, and, thanks to the results of this research, it may soon be resolved.