Researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) have devised a new blood test in collaboration with clinicians from Spain to help diagnose early stage Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the team, the new test will measure concentration changes of a small molecule, microRNA, to detect the condition even when symptoms are only mild.
The test is also intended to predict disease progression and is expected to help in deciding possible therapies for future treatment.
RCSI Physiology lecturer Dr Tobias Engel said: “Research into the condition is largely focussed on the development of new therapies. However, new therapies need diagnostic methods, which are affordable and minimally invasive and can be used to screen large populations.
“Our research carried out over the past four years has identified changes in blood levels of a small molecule called microRNA, which is able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at a very early stage and is able to distinguish Alzheimer’s from brain diseases with similar symptoms.”
The new diagnostic method is considered important as Alzheimer’s affects 48 million people across the world and no new treatments have been launched in 20 years since most of them fail at clinical trial stages.
This failure is believed to be due to their use at advanced stages of the disease characterised by irreversible brain damage.
Currently, Dr Engel and his team are working to translate the research funded by the COEN initiative (NEUROmiR) and RCSI, into a test for patients.