Washington D.C. [USA], Sep 7 : A team of researchers has analysed blood samples to create a novel and non-invasive way of helping to diagnose Alzheimer's disease and distinguishing between different types of neurodegenerative disorders.
Following this breakthrough discovery, Alzheimer's sufferers may now have an additional test to improve the accuracy of diagnosis in order to better tailor appropriate treatment.
The research also offered a valuable opportunity to monitor the progression of the disease. The international study from Lancaster University, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), the University of Manchester and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil used sensor-based technology with a diamond core to analyse approximately 550 blood samples.
By passing light through the diamond and observing its interactions with the blood plasma, researchers were able to identify specific chemical bonds within the blood.
This biochemical data was used to compare blood samples from cases of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases with those from healthy controls.
Researcher David Allsop said: "A particularly exciting aspect of the study was the ability to distinguish accurately between Alzheimer's disease and Lewy body dementia, which are conditions that both result in dementia and can be difficult to separate from each other based on clinical information and symptoms.
By reduction of misdiagnosed cases and administration of appropriate treatment, many people could benefit from this type of blood test in the future." Alzheimer's diagnosis currently involves careful medical evaluation including clinical history, memory testing and brain scans, yet the only conclusive diagnosis is determined by post-mortem examination.
This new blood test offered a non-invasive, more accurate and relatively cost-effective method of diagnosis, which will ensure the correct management of the condition.
Principal investigator Francis Martin said: "We have an aging population, meaning that the incidence and prevalence of Alzheimer's is increasing, as is the need for accurate diagnosis.
The ability to identify different neurodegenerative diseases through the analysis of blood offers a faster and accurate way of establishing the most effective treatment plan as well as disease monitoring." This new approach could also offer potential for carrying out tests to identify and monitor early signs of mild cognitive impairment, meaning that the onset of Alzheimer's and other types of neurodegenerative diseases could be detected early and intervention measures could be put in place earlier to slow the progress of these diseases.
The study appears in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences..