In a collaborative study between several institutions, mainly Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC; Washington DC, USA) and University of Rochester School of Medicine (URSM; Rochester, NY, USA), a blood-based biomarker panel has been discovered that may identify preclinical Alzheimer's disease. In the report, published in the journal Nature Medicine, March 9, 2014, online ahead of print, Mapstone et al. describe their lipidomic approach examining cognitively normal senior adults. They discovered and validated a set of lipids from peripheral blood plasma that predicted with over 90% accuracy the phenoconversion within 2-3 years from cognitively normal to either amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) or on to Alzheimer's disease (AD).
The study has yielded the first blood test that accurately identified individuals at risk for developing AD. The discovery could be a key to unlocking a new generation of treatments that seek to head off the disease before neurological damage becomes irreversible. “Our novel blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk for progressive cognitive decline and can change how patients and their families, and treating physicians plan for and manage the disorder,” said corresponding author Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD, professor of neurology at the GUMC. Some of the same experimental treatments that have thus far failed may prove to be successful if they are given to high-risk patients much sooner.
Biomarkers of preclinical disease with high sensitivity and specificity are critical. Current biomarkers and methods used in attempt to detect early disease are very limited. For widespread use and large-scale screening, blood-based biomarker screening would be more attractive and may also be more effective.