Medicine

Quest for Alzheimer’s test

A blood test that can detect Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages could be on the horizon thanks to a $716,000 grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Dr Veer Gupta, from ECU’s Centre for Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care, said current methods to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease are expensive and invasive, making them unsuitable for population screening.

“To date all clinical trials of potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease have failed. This is likely because the interventions were carried out too late in the disease progression when the brain is already severely damaged,” she said.

“This is why a blood test that could identify individuals at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease early is so vital, because then we could target treatments for these individuals before symptoms develop.”

Dr Gupta will use the NHMRC’s Boosting Dementia Research Leadership Fellowship Scheme grant to build a research team at ECU to develop an early warning test to reduce the burden of a disease that affects more than 250,000 Australians.

Lifestyle factors

Professor Ralph Martins, the Director of ECU’s Centre for Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care, said that with more evidence emerging that lifestyle factors play a significant role in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease a blood test was more important than ever.

“We have been able to prove that both dietary patterns and exercise levels play an important role in modifying the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

“So if we were able to identify individuals at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, then we may be able to target them with treatment and potentially slow or event prevent the disease progressing.”

ECU researchers have previously established links between Alzheimer’s disease and trouble sleeping, the stress hormone cortisol and depression.

Dr Gupta will draw on the Australian Imaging Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of Aging cohort for her research. The study is the largest of its kind in Australia, involving more than 1000 participants with a minimum age of 60 years old.

Since 2015 the Centre for Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and Care has been awarded more than $2.5 million by the NHMRC for a range of projects including:

  • The link between physical activity and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Comparing individuals who develop Alzheimer’s as a result of an inherited genetic mutation with family members who do not carry the mutation

Source: ECU

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