Millions Americans may have Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common cause of dementia among older adults, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Doctors may be able to predict if someone will develop Alzheimer's disease up to 16 years before they show symptoms. New research published in the journal Nature Medicine suggests testing for a certain protein in the blood, called neurofilament light chain (NfL). NfL is a "marker in the blood which gives an indication of nerve cell loss in the brain," explained lead researcher Mathias Jucker, professor of cell biology of neurological diseases at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. The researchers found an association between increased rates of change of the protein and the loss of brain mass and cognitive changes. While no cure exists yet for Alzheimer's disease, the research could help in testing treatment options, the study's lead author said. This could be a hope.
Alzheimer's disease starts at least a decade, maybe even 20 years, before we have any symptoms. "The fact that there is still no effective treatment for Alzheimer's is partly because current therapies start much too late," Mathias Jucker, a professor at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, said in a statement. Regular blood tests in the targeted group of patients could replace doing more invasive spinal taps. This is not the first blood test developed in hope of diagnosing the disease early.