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A Potential Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease


A simple technique to measure the amount of amyloid beta in the brain could improve diagnosis and drug trials for Alzheimer’s disease, according to the results of new research.

A simple blood test

Japanese researchers led by Dr. Katsuhiko Yanagisawa have published a new study suggesting that a screening test could help to boost the success rate of Alzheimer’s drug research. The research team has shown that a simple blood test can accurately measure the amount of amyloid beta, a protein that appears in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Amyloid is a typical pathological feature of Alzheimer’s disease, so being able to discern how much amyloid is present is key when designing optimal clinical trials. Currently, the only way to measure amyloid accumulation in a living person is either via an expensive positron emission tomography imaging (PET scan) or by taking a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) via a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap. A blood test would be a far less invasive and costly procedure to help determine how much amyloid is present in a patient.

The researchers believe that suficient amounts of amyloid beta penetrate the blood-brain barrier and enter the bloodstream to be a reliable measure of cognitive function. The hope is to replace the current, costly analysis methods with a simple, cost-effective way to detect preclinical Alzheimer’s and disease progression while improving clinical trials.

In order to measure the amyloid present in the bloodstream, the research team used a technique known as immunoprecipitation with mass spectrometry, which uses antibodies to bind to target proteins. The study included 121 people from Japan and 252 from Australia; of this group, there were people with normal brain function, mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers noted that the amount of amyloid present in the bloodstream correlated directly with the level of cognitive impairment. The level of blood amyloid also correlated with results from PET scans and spinal fluid samples from the same patients; this confirms that the blood test is effective.

The researchers are now continuing their study and expanding it in the hopes that they can bring an amyloid blood test closer to standard clinical use.


Having a reliable, non-invasive, and cost-effective biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease is a great result for clinical trials and drug development and may even find utility with home users who wish to monitor their health. We wish the researchers the best of luck and hope that soon, this test will be accepted as standard medical practice.


[1] Akinori Nakamura, Naoki Kaneko, Victor L. Villemagne, Takashi Kato, James Doecke, Vincent Doré, Chris Fowler, Qiao-Xin Li, Ralph Martins, Christopher Rowe, Taisuke Tomita, Katsumi Matsuzaki, Kenji Ishii, Kazunari Ishii, Yutaka Arahata, Shinichi Iwamoto, Kengo Ito, Koichi Tanaka, Colin L. Masters & Katsuhiko Yanagisawa (2018). High performance plasma amyloid-β biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease. Nature doi:10.1038/nature25456

About the author

Steve Hill

Steve serves on the LEAF Board of Directors and is the Editor in Chief, coordinating the daily news articles and social media content of the organization. He is an active journalist in the aging research and biotechnology field and has to date written over 600 articles on the topic, interviewed over 100 of the leading researchers in the field, hosted livestream events focused on aging, as well as attending various medical industry conferences. His work has been featured in H+ magazine, Psychology Today, Singularity Weblog, Standpoint Magazine, Swiss Monthly, Keep me Prime, and New Economy Magazine. Steve is one of three recipients of the 2020 H+ Innovator Award and shares this honour with Mirko Ranieri – Google AR and Dinorah Delfin – Immortalists Magazine. The H+ Innovator Award looks into our community and acknowledges ideas and projects that encourage social change, achieve scientific accomplishments, technological advances, philosophical and intellectual visions, author unique narratives, build fascinating artistic ventures, and develop products that bridge gaps and help us to achieve transhumanist goals. Steve has a background in project management and administration which has helped him to build a united team for effective fundraising and content creation, while his additional knowledge of biology and statistical data analysis allows him to carefully assess and coordinate the scientific groups involved in the project.
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