Nav: Home

Blood test for tau, Alzheimer's disease under development

December 06, 2018

Today, the only way to definitively diagnose Alzheimer's disease in life is through brain scans and tests of cerebrospinal fluid that must be collected via lumbar puncture. Though cumbersome and expensive, such tests provide the most accurate diagnoses for patients. Investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital are working to develop a blood test that could replace these procedures to accurately diagnose or even predict Alzheimer's disease before symptoms appear. The tau protein has long been implicated in Alzheimer's, however, tau occurs as a family of related molecules which have subtly different properties. The Brigham team took advantage of the complexity of tau and built assays to measure different forms of tau and identified a subset of tau proteins which are specifically elevated in Alzheimer's disease. The team's new approach is detailed in Alzheimer's & Dementia and featured in the journal's December issue.

"A blood test for Alzheimer's disease could be administered easily and repeatedly, with patients going to their primary care office rather than having to go into a hospital," said corresponding author Dominic Walsh, PhD, of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at the Brigham. "Ultimately, a blood-based test could replace cerebrospinal fluid testing and/or brain imaging. Our new test has the potential to do just that. Our test will need further validation in many more people, but if it performs as in the initial two cohorts, it would be a transformative breakthrough."

Walsh and colleagues developed tests capable of detecting different populations of tau fragments in cerebrospinal fluid and blood. They applied these tests to participants who had been recruited to the Harvard Aging Brain Study as well as research participants seen at the Institute of Neurology in London. Each participant donated both plasma and cerebrospinal fluid. They validated results in a second group of patients that had been recruited by the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the University of California, San Diego.

The team analyzed five different tests for tau fragments, finding that one, known as the NT1 assay, showed sufficient diagnostic sensitivity (the ability to predict AD cases) and specificity (the ability to exclude controls) to pursue its use as a potential screening tool for Alzheimer's disease. This was confirmed in both sets of patients.

While performing the experiment twice - in two sets of patients with two different demographic backgrounds - provided important confirmation, the authors note that both groups of participants were small (65 participants and 86 participants, respectively). Larger groups of participants will need to be studied and the authors are also interested in studying patients over time to determine how tau levels in blood may change as the disease progresses and what those numbers may look like before the onset of symptoms.

"We've made our data and the tools needed to perform our test widely available because we want other research groups to put this to test," said Walsh. "It's important for others to validate our findings so that we can be certain this test will work across different populations."
-end-
Funding for this work was provided by the Alzheimer's Association Zenith Award, the Harvard Neuro-Discovery Center through a major gift from Rick and Nancy Moskovitz, a grant from Medimmune Plc, the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Center, the Weston Brain Institute and Wolfson Foundation, the National Institute for Health Research University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Center, MRC Dementias Platform UK (MR/L023784/1), and Alzheimer's Research UK.

Paper cited: Chen, Z et al. "Learnings about the complexity of extracellular tau aid development of a blood-based screen for Alzheimer's disease" Alzheimer's & Dementia DOI: 10.1016/j.jalz.2018.09.010

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Related Blood Test Articles:

A blood test could predict who benefits from immunotherapy
A test which detects changing levels of tumour fragments in the blood may be an easy, non-invasive and quick way to predict who will benefit from immunotherapy, a treatment option for advanced cancers.
Diagnosing brain tumors with a blood test
A simple but highly sensitive blood test has been found to accurately diagnose and classify different types of brain tumours, resulting in more accurate diagnosis, less invasive methods and better treatment planning in the future for the patients.
Blood test could predict diabetes years before it strikes
Metabolite signature composed of sugars, amino acids and lipids can predict with over 85 per cent accuracy whether a women will develop diabetes after pregnancy marked with gestational diabetes.
Blood test may help predict whose MS will get worse
A blood test may help predict which people with multiple sclerosis (MS) will get worse during the following year, according to a study published in the May 20, 2020, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
New blood test for Alzheimer's developed
A new blood test for Alzheimer's disease has been developed under the leadership of researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Blood test for deadly eye melanoma
A simple blood test could soon become the latest monitoring tool for the early detection of melanoma in the eye.
Blood test could help to accelerate brain cancer diagnosis
A blood test which could help to accelerate the diagnosis of brain cancer has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.
New blood test for detecting Alzheimer's disease
Researchers from Lund University, together with the Roche pharmaceutical company, have used a method to develop a new blood marker capable of detecting whether or not a person has Alzheimer's disease.
Coming soon: A blood test for Alzheimer's disease?
People with symptoms of Alzheimer's disease (AD), such as cognitive difficulties, behavior changes and mood swings, may wait months or even years to get a definitive diagnosis.
Blood test for tau, Alzheimer's disease under development
Investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital are working to develop a blood test to accurately diagnose or even predict Alzheimer's disease before symptoms appear.
More Blood Test News and Blood Test Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: IRL Online
Original broadcast date: March 20, 2020. Our online lives are now entirely interwoven with our real lives. But the laws that govern real life don't apply online. This hour, TED speakers explore rules to navigate this vast virtual space.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#573 Penis. That's It. That's the title.
This episode is about penises. That was your content warning. Penises. Where they came from. Why they're useful. And the many, many wild things that animals do with them. Come for the world's oldest penis, stay for the creature that ejaculates 80 percent of its bodyweight. Host Bethany Brookshire talks with Emily Willingham about her new book, "Phallacy: Life Lessons from the Animal Penis".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Falling
There are so many ways to fall–in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls.  We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.