Preliminary new blood test to detect Alzheimer’s disease uncovered
February 11, 2011
UT Southwestern Medical Center scientists have helped develop a novel technology to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease from blood samples long before symptoms appear.
This preliminary technology, which uses synthetic molecules to seek out and identify disease-specific antibodies, also could be used eventually in the development of specific biomarkers for a range of other hard-to-diagnose diseases and conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and immune system-related diseases like multiple sclerosis and lupus, the researchers predict.
“One of the great challenges in treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease is that once symptoms appear, it’s too late. You can’t un-ring the bell,” said Dr. Dwight German, professor of psychiatry and an author of the paper published in the Jan. 7 edition of Cell. “If we can find a way to detect the disease in its earliest stages – before cognitive impairment begins – we might be able to stop it in its tracks by developing new treatment strategies.”
Because patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) exhibit immune system activation and neurodegeneration in several brain regions, researchers in the study hypothesized that there may be numerous antibodies in the serum of affected patients that are specific to the disease and can serve as a biomarker.
Antigens – substances such as protein from a virus or bacteria that triggers an immune response – traditionally have been necessary for the discovery of antibody biomarkers. It has been impossible previously to identify an antibody (a type of targeted immune molecule) without first knowing the antigen that triggers its production.
The new study, however, challenges conventional wisdom and uses synthetic molecules (peptoids) rather than antigens to successfully detect signs of disease in patients’ blood samples. These peptoids have many advantages; they can be modified easily and can be produced quickly in relatively large amounts at lower cost. Read more in Physorg…