HOUSTON - A medical breakthrough that could help detect Alzheimer's disease through a blood test is now on the market.
17 November 2020, Bavaria, Krailling: A resident of the old people's home Maria Eich plays the game "Memory" on a nursing ward and puts pairs of cards together. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa (Photo by Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Dr. Paul Schulz, a neurologist with UT Health, says this test presents challenges but it is a major step in the right direction.
"Right now, for me to diagnose Alzheimer's [disease] specifically I have to a $5,000 (Positron emission tomography) PET scan that no one can afford or I have to do a spinal tap which, frankly, not everybody wants to get," Schulz said.
The blood test by C2N Diagnostics is available for purchase by doctors in most states, although it is not yet approved by the FDA.
"In the brain of people with Alzheimer's disease they accumulate amyloid plaques and a tiny bit of that amyloid leaks out of the brain into the blood," Schulz explained.
The test has been shown to detect that small amount of protein.
"If it's present above a certain amount it can make the observation that this person may have Alzheimer's disease," he added.
The test is intended for people 60 years and older.
"The challenge here is the younger you are and the less likely you are to have it, the more likely there is to have a false positive," Schulz noted.
He adds there is about a 20 percent chance the test would show a false positive. But even so, Schulz, says this test gives him hope.
I think the value of this test is that it's telling us we're getting close. We can now measure the pathological protein.
I think what we need to do though is make it more specific so that there are less people who are going to be given the news about potentially having Alzheimer's when they don't really have it," he concluded.
It's also good news for organizations like Amazing Place in Houston. It provides day programs for individuals with dementia including as art, yoga, and other brain-stimulating activities and social events.
"The early availability of a blood test to aid in Alzheimer's diagnosis is crucial for prolonging quality of life to individuals who often suffer from social isolation and a lack of independence as the disease progresses," said Logan Campbell, Health Services Manager with Amazing Place.