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Blood tests for Alzheimer’s take a major step forward

Posted at 4:11 PM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 17:11:42-05

WACO, Texas — New research is showing promising results for people who are at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are testing whether they can identify the disease before symptoms appear through a blood test.

The new tests could have a life-changing impact on people like Waco resident Reece Flood who are at high risk for Alzheimer’s. When Flood was growing up, he watched his parents take care of his grandparents.

“I watched both my mother’s mother and my father’s father suffer from and pass away with dementia,” explained Flood. “That happened in my high school to college years.”

When Flood became an adult, he started noticing symptoms in his parents as well. Eventually, both his mother and father developed the disease.

“I’ve stepped into the role that [my parents] used to be in – of caretaker and making sure they’re ok – but also of watching their deterioration from that point of view.”

Now Flood helps care for both his parents, runs his own business, and has a family of his own. Given his family history, he understands the risk for himself.

“I feel like it’s only a matter of time before this disease hits me. At some point, my son is probably going to be in my shoes today. The only way to stop that is going to come from research.”

That’s why new breakthroughs like blood-based screening give so much hope. It could allow people like Flood to catch the disease before symptoms ever show. Andrew Taurins is the Executive Director of the Capital of Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She says blood-based screening would help people start preventative treatment earlier.

“If you can catch it earlier, there are medications that they can give. That’s why early detection can be so important,” said Taurins. “The longer that they can hold onto their memoires, the longer they can hold onto the lives that they know.”

The blood tests look for the presence of beta-amyloid. This protein can accumulate and form plaques on the brain that have been linked with the development of Alzheimer’s.

“It’s really an incredible possibility to have an easier way to determine if someone can benefit from a treatment. [It’s much easier] than the extensive testing that has to go into it now,” explained Taurins.

Blood screening could also open the door to new preventative research. Before, it was difficult to test whether drugs could help slow the disease in early-stage patients because it was hard to identify early-stage patients to participate in clinical trials.

Already a clinical trial called AHEAD is using blood screening to identify participants. They’re currently enrolling around 1,100 people to study whether lecanemab, a monoclonal antibody, can delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.