Until recently, modern day medicine had only found one timely, conclusive method for diagnosing an individual with Alzheimer’s disease: A postmortem examination of their brain. Now, according to a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an experimental blood test has been proven to accurately diagnose the disease in a living person.
Finding out that you or your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease might not seem like good news; however, early detection can be life changing. Prior to this blood test, which is still in its experimental stages and needs more testing before it can be used by doctors, a patient could only be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after slow and costly evaluations of the brain and in-depth mental testing. “Current methods of diagnosing dementia can be slow and expensive, so finding a cheap, quick test that can accurately identify if someone has dementia is a top priority for researchers,” Doug Brown, director of research and development at Alzheimer’s Society told CNN.
Early detection of the disease could be doctors’ best chance for slowing its progress, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, making this test a milestone for the medical world and people affected by the disease. It also has the ability to differentiate between different types of dementia, which can help doctors tailor their treatment methods to fit the diagnosis. The test, which uses vibration frequencies to reveal chemical bonds in the blood that indicate whether there are traces of neurodegenerative disease, is predicted to also help doctors better diagnose and treat other forms of cognitive impairment, including post-injury impairments occurring in many athletes, such as football players and boxers.
Its predicted that validation testing, which is the next step in ensuring the accuracy of the blood test, will take five to 10 years. Brown says further testing is needed to improve the test’s accuracy and guarantee that results are consistent.
This study is not the only one of its kind; blood tests are being widely investigated as a means to accurately diagnose dementia, according to Brown.