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May 25, 2014 11:58 PM EDT

Simple Blood Test May Be Able To Predict Alzheimer's Disease Before Symptoms Show

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A blood test may have the potential to predict Alzheimer's disease before patients start showing symptoms, according to a recent study.

A research team led by Howard Federoff, MD, PhD, executive dean at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., have discovered a 10-lipid blood test that could help researchers to develop treatments for Alzheimer's that halt or slow the disease before it even begins.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of Alzheimer's patients worldwide is expected to skyrocket from the 35.6 million individuals who lived with it in 2010 to 115.4 million by 2050.

"This discovery is a potentially enormous breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer's,"Janet B. Kreizman, CEO of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, said in a statement.

In cognitively healthy adults age 70 and older, Federoff's team measured the levels of 10 lipids found in the blood to identify, with 90 percent accuracy, which study group participants would develop cognitive impairment over a 2 to 3 year period.

Researchers said a blood test would also be easier to perform than current Alzheimer's tests that use brain imaging or hard-to-collect cerebrospinal fluid, meaning that the Federoff team's test could be used for population-wide Alzheimer's screening.

""If research aimed at a cure for Alzheimer's is to move forward, it is crucial that Alzheimer's clinical trials find a way to recruit patients who are still asymptomatic, since they are the ones most likely to respond to treatment," Kreizman said. "The Federoff team's test could be the answer to this problem, and it also demonstrates how laboratory medicine helps patients achieve better health -- by not only ensuring that patients receive timely and appropriate treatment, but also by enabling researchers to develop effective treatments in the first place."

The findings were presented at the 2014 AACC Annual Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in Chicago.

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