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Blood test for Alzheimer’s disease could be as accurate as painful lumbar puncture, study suggests | Science & Tech News

A blood test could be just as good at detecting the signs of Alzheimer’s disease as painful and invasive lumbar punctures, research suggests.

Measuring levels of a protein called p-tau217 in the blood could be just as accurate at detecting signs of the progressive condition, experts say.

The protein is a marker for biological changes in the brain for people with Alzheimer’s disease, which is a form of dementia.

The new findings have the potential to “revolutionise” diagnosis for people who are suspected to have Alzheimer’s, experts say.

It could also be better than a range of other tests currently under development.

In the study of 786 people, the researchers were able to use the ALZpath p-tau217 test to identify patients as likely, intermediate and unlikely to have Alzheimer’s disease.

** HOLD FOR RELEASE/PUBLICATION DATE TBD FOR MEDICAL WRITER MARILYNN MARCHIONE STORY ** Dr. William Burke goes over PET brain scan Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018 at Banner Alzheimers Institute in Phoenix. It may be too late to stop Alzheimer's in people who already have some mental decline but Banner is conducting two studies that target the very earliest brain changes while memory and thinking skills are still intact in hope of preventing the disease. (AP Photo/Matt York).
Images from an Alzheimer’s brain scan. File pic: AP

“This study is a hugely welcome step in the right direction as it shows that blood tests can be just as accurate as more invasive and expensive tests at predicting if someone has features of Alzheimer’s disease in their brain,” said Dr Richard Oakley, associate director of research and innovation at the Alzheimer’s Society.

“Furthermore, it suggests results from these tests could be clear enough to not require further follow-up investigations for some people living with Alzheimer’s disease, which could speed up the diagnosis pathway significantly in future.

“However, we still need to see more research across different communities to understand how effective these blood tests are across everyone who lives with Alzheimer’s disease.”

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Test could turn tide on devastating disease

This is a significant step towards a screening test for Alzheimer’s.

It detects a protein in the blood that is also found in the brains of people with the disease.

And the Swedish researchers say it is as accurate as existing tests.

At the moment Alzheimer’s is diagnosed either with special PET brain scans or samples of spinal fluid. The NHS doesn’t have enough machines or specialist staff to do that at the scale required.

It means that even if people ever get a diagnosis, it often comes when the disease has significantly progressed.

That matters because there are drugs coming down the tracks that have been shown in clinical trials to significantly slow the decline in memory and brain function.

But they have to be given at an early stage to be effective. That’s why doctors are excited about this test.

It needs to be validated in bigger clinical trials and in a diverse population.

But the hope is that in the near future it could be offered every few years to everyone over 50 to turn the tide on a devastating disease.

‘Huge potential’

Currently the only way to prove someone has a build-up of the proteins in the brain is to have a lumbar puncture or amyloid PET scan, which are available in only about one in 20 NHS memory clinics.

A lumbar puncture involves a needle being inserted into the lower back, between the bones in the spine.

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November 2022: New Alzheimer’s drug may be too late for some

Dr Sheona Scales, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This study suggests that measuring levels of a protein called p-tau217 in the blood could be as accurate as currently used lumbar punctures for detecting the biological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, and superior to a range of other tests currently under development.

“This adds to a growing body of evidence that this particular test has huge potential to revolutionise diagnosis for people with suspected Alzheimer’s.”

However, she said a better picture is needed of how these types of blood tests perform day-to-day in real-world healthcare systems.

The study from Dr Nicholas Ashton at the University of Gothenburg, and colleagues, is published in the Jama Neurology journal.

Pensioner Shelagh Robertson on trial over careless driving death of five-month-old Louis Thorold ‘had undiagnosed Alzheimer’s’ | UK News

A pensioner accused of causing the death of a baby boy by careless driving will say she had undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease at the time and will mount a defence of insanity, a court has heard.

Shelagh Robertson, 75, was driving home from shopping at Tesco when she turned into the path of an oncoming van on the A10 at Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire on 22 January last year, forcing the van on to the pavement, Cambridge Crown Court heard.

The van hit five-month-old Louis Thorold and his mother Rachael Thorold, killing him and throwing Mrs Thorold into the air and causing her serious injuries.

Another driver who witnessed the crash, Kaye Lewis, said in a statement read in court that the van driver was “fighting the steering wheel but the van just kept going towards the pavement”.

She said she remembered seeing the “absolute terror” on Mrs Thorold’s face when she saw the van before she was “thrown 15ft in the air then landed”.

“I saw the pram just disintegrate into pieces and go under the van,” she added.

Robertson, of Stables Yard, Waterbeach, denies causing the baby boy’s death by careless driving.

James Leonard, defending, told the court it was “agreed by any reasonable objective test the way Mrs Robertson drove on the day of the accident fell below the standard to be expected from a reasonable, competent driver”.

“The issue in this case is whether or not Mrs Robertson was suffering from insanity as it’s recognised by law,” he said.

“The defence case is that Mrs Robertson had undiagnosed atypical Alzheimer’s disease both before the accident and on the day, and that’s what will lead to the conclusion that the defence of insanity is made out.”

Shelagh Robertson arrives at Cambridge Crown Court where she is charged with causing the death of five-month-old Louis Thorold by careless driving following a crash on the A10 in Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire on January 22, 2021. Picture date: Monday August 8, 2022.
Robertson arrives at Cambridge Crown Court

Mark Bishop, the judge, told the jury of nine women and three men that for a defence of insanity to succeed they must be persuaded Robertson was suffering from atypical Alzheimer’s disease at the time of the crash and that “as a result of that disease she experienced disrupted thinking”.

He said the disrupted thinking could either be that as she drove the car she “didn’t know what she was doing” or that she “didn’t know that what she was doing was wrong by the standards of reasonable people”.

David Matthew, for the prosecution, said Robertson had turned right and driven her Mazda 2 car into the path of an oncoming Renault van that was travelling south along the A10 at the junction with Car Dyke Road.

“The impact forced the van on to the pavement,” he said.

“Walking along the pavement towards the van were Rachael Thorold and pushing in front of her five-month-old son Louis in a pushchair.

“The van went over them.”

Chris and Rachael Thorold, parents of baby Louis, arrive at Cambridge Crown Court, where Shelagh Robertson, is charged with causing death by careless driving, following the death of five-month-old Louis Thorold
Chris and Rachael Thorold, parents of baby Louis, arrive at court

Mr Matthew said the van was driven by delivery driver Andrew Freestone, whom he described as a “careful and professional driver”.

He said the incident was captured by dashcam footage and Mr Freestone was driving “properly, sensibly and within the speed limit”, which at the time was 50mph.

Mr Matthew said Mr Freestone “tried to steer to his right” to avoid a collision.

“He saw the pushchair, heard thumps, saw the woman with the pushchair go up in the air,” he said.

He said of Robertson: “Obviously a competent and careful driver doesn’t drive into the path of oncoming traffic which has the right of way without looking.”

Mr Matthew said a witness had spoken to Robertson after the crash as she sat in the back of another car and that she told them: “I just didn’t see him coming.”

Another witness described Robertson as “alert, agile” and “able to scoot across the Mazda and leave by the passenger door” after the crash.

Louis was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital, Mr Matthew said.

PC Matthew Bill, of Cambridgeshire Police, said Mr Freestone had “less than half a second” to react to the car pulling out of a filter lane and across his path.

The trial, which is due to last less than a week, continues.