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New Blood Test May Detect Alzheimer's Long Before Symptoms Start

Jenny Fant
Author:
January 16, 2023
Jenny Fant
mbg Health Contributor
By Jenny Fant
mbg Health Contributor
Jenny is a San Francisco-based mbg contributor, content designer, and climate & sustainability communications specialist. She is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara. An avid open-water swimmer, Jenny has worked for healthy living and nutrition brands like Sun Basket, Gather Around Nutrition, and Territory Foods.
Image by Jun / iStock
January 16, 2023

With conditions like Alzheimer's disease (AD), early detection is key to an effective response. But even when the disease is detected early, current treatment options can only slow its progression—not reverse it. The ability to detect AD earlier could be a game changer for treatment, and a new study gives us reason to be optimistic. 

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A breakthrough in early detection.

Scientists at the University of Washington (UW) have developed a blood test, known as SOBA (soluble oligomer binding assay)1, that has successfully predicted the onset of AD in humans.

Their new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), builds on past research that identified a specific protein formation present in the blood of patients with active AD. As this new study observed, these protein formations can be seen years or even decades before symptoms begin.

It's important to note that this study was conducted on a limited group, ultimately predicting symptom onset for 10 individuals. While these results are promising, more research on a larger group of people is necessary to fully confirm the validity of this study's findings.

"What clinicians and researchers have wanted is a reliable diagnostic test for Alzheimer's disease—and not just an assay that confirms a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, but one that can also detect signs of the disease before cognitive impairment happens," senior author Valerie Daggett, Ph.D., said in a news release. "What we show here is that SOBA may be the basis of such a test."

This potential breakthrough in early detection could one day be a tool to help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. And these tools are desperately needed, as over 6 million Americans currently live with the disease. That number is projected to almost triple2 by 2060, which means advancements in treatment and early detection will become increasingly important.

Fortunately, we already know that a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of developing AD3 by helping individuals avoid risk factors consistent with the later development of AD. These risk factors include obesity, excessive alcohol use, tobacco use, and depression.

While there's currently no cure for AD, treatments to help delay the disease's progression have been shown to be relatively effective. 

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Reducing your own risk.

One day, SOBA's ability to detect markers of AD early may help doctors identify and treat people before their symptoms start, marking a significant shift in the prognosis of the disease.

In the meantime, you can take the steps below every day to protect your body and mind and boost your cognitive function:

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The takeaway.

While there's plenty you can do today to optimize your brain health, diseases like AD understandably remain a fear for many later in life. Scientists at the University of Washington have developed a new test that shows promising results in detecting Alzheimer's disease long before symptoms begin. Because AD doesn't have a cure (yet!), this test could help experts figure out how to stop symptoms of AD before they even begin

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Jenny Fant
Jenny Fant
mbg Health Contributor

Jenny is a San Francisco-based mbg health contributor, content designer, and climate & sustainability communications specialist. She is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara. An avid open-water swimmer, Jenny has worked for healthy living and nutrition brands like Sun Basket, Gather Around Nutrition, and Territory Foods.