CTVNews.ca – A new test developed by neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh can detect signs of Alzheimer’s disease in a blood sample more accurately than previous tests, by spotting an elusive sign of the disease.
The test works by detecting a novel biomarker of Alzheimer’s called brain-derived tau, according to a study by the team published in the medical journal Brain on Monday.
Tau is a protein that supports neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain.
The abnormal accumulation of tau, especially in tangles of the protein, is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. While tau is associated mostly with brain cells, cells outside the brain can produce a variation the study calls “big tau.”
By figuring out how to detect brain-derived tau in blood, the team has created a method for diagnosing Alzheimer’s that is more accessible than existing methods.
“At present, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease requires neuroimaging,” senior author Thomas Karikari said in a media release issued on Monday. “Those tests are expensive and take a long time to schedule, and a lot of patients, even in the U.S., don’t have access to MRI and PET scanners.”
The current framework for detecting Alzheimer’s, set by the U.S. National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association, is called the amyloid, tau and neurodegeneration (ATN) method.
This method requires scientists to detect three components, or biomarkers, of Alzheimer’s disease – amyloid plaques, tau tangles and neurodegeneration – in the brain.
It can be achieved either through imaging or by analyzing cerebrospinal fluid samples, but Karikari said these methods are costly and require a lot of resources …