Newcastle scientists step closer to Alzheimer's blood test

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


An interdisciplinary team of scientists at the University of Newcastle has shown the potential of a simple blood-based test to identify people in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, before any symptoms appear.

Blood test for Alzheimers

The team of four* spent a year studying data from the international Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) database, the most comprehensive collection of Alzheimer's data in the world.

The Newcastle team assessed the levels of 190 proteins in blood from 566 people with either Alzheimer's Disease, mild cognitive impairment or normal cognition and showed that measuring a panel of 11 proteins in blood can provide a predictive test with more than 85 per cent accuracy. Monitoring the change in blood protein levels over time could increase accuracy above 90 per cent.

The study was funded by the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute, and its findings are published today in the prestigious PLoS ONE journal.

Senior author Professor Pablo Moscato said the results were likely to be significant for the way Alzheimer's was diagnosed.

"Currently, Alzheimer's disease diagnosis is based on clinical observations and testing of cognitive capacity and memory loss," he said.

"The only reliable and accurate biological markers so far identified for early diagnosis require measurement by either expensive procedures such as brain imaging, or invasive procedures, for example spinal punctures.

"Our study makes a considerable step towards cheap, non-invasive testing by identifying a blood protein panel to predict Alzheimer's disease in its early stages."

Early detection of Alzheimer's disease is considered vital for effective intervention as there is no cure. The only available treatments are drugs that improve the functioning of neurons but do not stop the disease progressing.

Alzheimer's disease attacks the brain resulting in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour. It is the most common form of dementia, affecting one in 25 Australians aged 60 years and over.

* Research team:  Senior author - Professor Pablo Moscato, Co-Director, University of Newcastle Priority Research Centre for Bioinformatics, Biomarker Discovery and Information-Based Medicine; Lead author - Dr Dan Johnstone; Dr Regina Berretta; Dr Liz Milward.

The researchers work in collaboration with HMRI's Information Based Medicine Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Local Health District and the community.

View the journal article online: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0034341

Visit the PRC for Bioinformatics, Biomarker Discovery & Information-Based Medicine website

Visit the HMRI website