Early dementia diagnosis: blood proteins reveal at-risk people


An analysis of around 1,500 blood proteins has identified biomarkers that can be used to predict the risk of developing dementia up to 15 years before diagnosis.

The findings, reported today in Nature Aging1, are a step towards a tool that scientists have been in search of for decades: blood tests that can detect Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia at a very early, pre-symptomatic stage.

Researchers screened blood samples from more than 50,000 healthy adults in the UK Biobank, 1,417 of whom developed dementia in a 14-year period.

They found that high blood levels of four proteins — GFAP, NEFL, GDF15 and LTBP2 — were strongly associated with dementia.

“Studies such as this are required if we are to intervene with disease-modifying therapies at the very earliest stage of dementia,” said Amanda Heslegrave, a neuroscientist at University College London, in a statement to the Science Media Centre in London.

Late diagnosis

According to the World Health Organization, more than 55 million people worldwide currently live with dementia.

People are often diagnosed only when they notice memory problems or other symptoms. At that point, the disease might have been progressing for years. “Once we diagnose it, it’s almost too late,” says study co-author Jian-Feng Feng, a computational biologist at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. “And it’s impossible to reverse it.”

Presidential Brain Problems

Ronald Regan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s post-presidency after retiring from office at 77 years old. President Biden had a serious 4.5 hour brain surgery for aneurysms.  As the nation heads towards a Presidential election with the two oldest candidates ever, voters should demand the test described above be taken and the results made public.

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