According to researchers, a new method of blood testing offers significant promise as a way to detect Alzheimer's disease, years before patients begin showing symptoms such as memory loss and cognitive decline.
A new test called ‘metabolomics’ can detect different so-called ‘metabolic signatures’ in blood plasma that signal the early presence of Alzheimer’s disease.
In this study, researchers analyzed cerebrospinal fluid and plasma samples from 45 people. Of these subjects, 15 showed no cognitive decline, 15 had mild cognitive impairment and 15 had full-blown Alzheimer's disease.
The study authors detected significant changes in the cerebrospinal fluid and plasma taken from the subjects with cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease relative to those with no signs of cognitive decline. Not only that, the changes they saw in the plasma were an accurate reflection of changes in the cerebrospinal fluid, validating blood as a reliable source for evaluating this promising new Alzheimer’s disease biomarker.
In this study, the team used a new analytical technique called metabolomics, which measures the chemical fingerprints of metabolic pathways in the cell created by sugars, lipids, nucleotides, amino acids and fatty acids.
Metabolomics measures what is happening in the body at a very fine level of detail, providing insight into the many complex physiological processes that underlie a disease.
The metabolomic profiles of subjects with cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease showed clear changes in metabolites that were related to mitochondrial function and energy metabolism. This confirms previous scientific evidence that drastic changes in cellular energy processes may lie at the root of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers hope that their approach will lead to identification of an entire panel of biomarkers which could eventually be used for early diagnosis, monitoring of Alzheimer's disease progression, and evaluating which therapy to use on a particular patient.
Hopefully these biomarkers could be used to detect Alzheimer's disease years, even decades before symptoms appear; the earlier the better for the unfortunate patients and their families.