New research has shown the potential to diagnose the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease ten years before symptoms appear, providing a window of opportunity to potentially change the trajectory of the disease.
The Australian Alzheimer’s Research Foundation (AARF) is delighted to be supporting this research into a blood biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease. The results of the latest findings were published in late December 2022 and involved nearly 40 scientists in Australia, the US and Europe.
Professor Ralph Martins AO, Director of Research at AARF and a senior author of the new publication said, “This new research shows a very high degree of accuracy in identifying people who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but as yet have no symptoms. This provides a window of opportunity for drug or lifestyle interventions where it may be possible to change the disease trajectory before the brain is damaged.”
Current practice for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is a battery of cognitive tests that can only be relied on once symptoms have started to appear, together with costly brain imaging. This new study has determined that Alzheimer’s-related proteins are elevated in patients a decade before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s emerge and before degeneration of the brain.
The study utilised data from several groups of patients, including those at the Australian Alzheimer’s Research Foundation’s facility.
“It is hoped that this study will allow for more robust clinical trials and the identification of earlier interventions,” said Professor Martins. “The other benefit is the cost implications of diagnosis – a simple and low cost blood test is much more affordable for patients and for the health system than brain imaging.
“With earlier detection, comes earlier clinical trials. We think the reason so many clinical trials have failed, is that people’s brains have been severely compromised by the time treatments were attempted,” says Professor Martins. “Hopefully, with a much earlier diagnosis, drugs and lifestyle interventions such as the AU-ARROW study supported by the Foundation will be far more effective.”
Dr Prashant Bharadwaj is one of the researchers focused on developing a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease. Dr Bharadwaj is a researcher at Edith Cowan University, and his research has been recognised by being awarded a grant of $250,000 over the next two years by The National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation to develop a new blood test to diagnose and monitor dementia, with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease.
The team, which includes collaborators from Macquarie University, Australian Genomic Research Facility, and Proteomics International, will focus on identifying specific proteins in the blood, particularly the neurofilament light (NFL) protein, which has been shown to be a good indicator of brain degeneration. They will characterize the NFL variants in different types of dementias and determine if specific variants are associated with Alzheimer’s disease pathology.
The Australian Alzheimer’s Research Foundation is supporting the salaries of the researchers working on a blood test to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and is providing world-class facilities, so they can focus on the important research work.