EMERGING TESTS

Test Developed to Identify Alzheimer’s Risk

An Irish company has announced a test that can detect an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s disease in patients before symptoms develop.

The test, developed by Randox Laboratories, uses a microchip in blood testing. The chip can help detect a mutation of the ApoE4 gene, a variant in protein processing that can lead to an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s. If a patient inherits the gene from one parent, they have a three times greater risk than average of developing the disease. If they inherit from both parents, their risk is elevated to as much as 12 times greater than average for developing Alzheimer’s.

About 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with or are believed to have Alzheimer’s. The disease, which leads to deposits of protein on neurons and robs patients of memory and other brain functions, eventually kills. The incidence of the disease has been rising in recent decades as the United States population continues to age and live longer. Treatment for dementiacausing diseases is extremely expensive, estimated to cost the U.S. $236 billion a year. Most sufferers of Alzheimer’s are not diagnosed until they are symptomatic.

Results of a trial of the test, which is not yet available in the U.S., were compared in 384 patients against a standard molecular test that confirms the presence of Alzheimer’s. Those patients that tested for an elevated risk were in complete concordance with the results from the molecular test.

"Pairing this test with medical and family history for risk of Alzheimer’s disease has the real potential to advance personalized medicine," said Emma Harte, a research scientist with Randox. "This fast, accurate testing will allow doctors and patients to make more informed choices earlier to potentially slow the possible progress of Alzheimer’s. This type of testing is important in our quest to understand and diagnose Alzheimer’s and empower patients to understand risks, consider medication, and even make early lifestyle changes."

The findings of the study were presented at the American Association of Clinical Chemistry’s annual conference in Philadelphia.

Takeaway: A new laboratory test that can indicate an elevated risk for contracting Alzheimer’s disease may eventually enter the U.S. market.

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