Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and causes problems with thinking, memory and behavior.
It can be a long, hard road for those with the disease as it can last anywhere between three and 20 years; often it’s even harder for those who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
More than 5 million people are suffering with Alzheimer’s in the U.S.. The disease kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
But now a new study has found a simple blood test could predict if a patient will develop Alzheimer’s disease up to 16 years before the symptoms start.
By measuring changes in the levels of a protein in the blood, called neurofilament light chain (NfL), researchers believe any rise in levels of the protein could be an early sign of the disease, according to the study published in the journal Nature Medicine.
”The more neurofilament you have in the blood, the more brain damage you have,” according to lead researcher Mathias Jucker, professor of cell biology of neurological diseases at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases.
There is still no effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, but Mathias Jucker thinks the new blood test will be “very important for clinical studies.”
“Alzheimer’s disease starts at least a decade, maybe even 20 years, before we have any symptoms,” he added.
The research team measured the rate of change in NfL using a blood test in 405 individuals from across the world, according to the National Institute on Aging.
They measured NfL protein levels through blood samples, brain imaging and cognitive tests on average every two and half years over the last seven years. This Alzheimer’s study is ongoing.
By measuring the protein, Jucker said “we can measure with our blood test the changes in the brain many, many years before we have the symptoms.”
‘Prevent the development’
James Pickett, head of research at the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society said the study’s participants had a faulty gene “which causes an inherited form of the disease.”
Dr. Charles Marshall, clinical lecturer in neurology at Queen Mary University of London, said in an email to CNN: “This is exciting because it might allow treatments to be started early, and therefore prevent the development of dementia.”
Find out more about this degenerative disease in the video below.
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