Alzheimer Diagnosis

Proteins in Blood May Predict Onset of Alzheimer’s

In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers have identified a group of 10 proteins in the blood they believe can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study involving 1,148 participants was led by researchers from King’s College London and British protein biomarker company Proteome Sciences, who say their idea is to use the blood tests to determine patients fit to join clinical trials testing drugs that stop the progression of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.

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In their analysis, the authors discovered a combination of 10 proteins they say could foretell whether individuals would progress from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer’s disease within a year with an accuracy of 87 percent. About 10 percent of those with MCI go on to develop dementia within 1 year, the researchers note, adding there is no reliable way to predict who these patients will be, aside from regular memory tests.

The team analyzed blood sample results from 3 international studies. Among the 1,148 participants, 476 had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, 220 experienced MCI, and 452 elderly participants without dementia were included as control patients. In addition, 476 individuals across the 3 groups had also undergone MRI brain scans. The researchers analyzed 26 proteins in the blood samples, finding that 16 linked strongly to brain shrinkage in the MRI and Alzheimer’s groups. In a second analysis, the authors discovered the combination of 10 proteins they believe could predict the progression of Alzheimer’s.

“Memory problems are very common, but the challenge is identifying who is likely to develop dementia,” said Abdul Hye, a post-doctoral scientist at King’s Institute of Psychiatry, and lead study author, in a statement.

“There are thousands of proteins in the blood, and this study is the culmination of many years’ work identifying which ones are clinically relevant,” said Hye. “We now have a set of 10 proteins that can predict whether someone with early symptoms of memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment, will develop Alzheimer’s disease within a year, with a high level of accuracy.”

Many drug trials fail because “by the time patients are given the drugs, the brain has already been too severely affected,” added Simon Lovestone, a professor at the University of Oxford, and study co-author. “A simple blood test could help us identify patients at a much earlier stage to take part in new trials, and hopefully develop treatments which could prevent the progression of the disease.”

The next step, says Lovestone, is to validate these findings in further sample sets, “to see if we can improve accuracy and reduce the risk of misdiagnosis, and to develop a reliable test suitable to be used by doctors.”

—Mark McGraw


Hye, A, et al. Plasma proteins predict conversion to dementia from prodromal disease. Alzheimer’s and Dementia. 2014.