Scientists unveil new biomarker for early detection of dementia through blood test

Ruth Frikke-Schmidt

As scientists race to uncover ways to diagnose neurogenerative diseases in patients, Danish researchers have pinpointed a new biomarker that could predict an individual's risk of for dementia through a blood test.

A research team at Denmark's Rigshopitalet, Herlev Hospital and the University of Copenhagen found that low levels of apolipoprotein E in the blood may increase a patient's risk of developing the condition. Apolipoprotein E helps prevent amyloid β buildup in the brain, and low levels of the biomarker in the blood could indicate similar low levels in the brain, leading to less effective removal of amyloid β. The scientists uncovered the biomarker in public studies with 76,000 people and published their results in a February 2015 issue of the Annals of Neurology.

"The blood test will provide a more precise risk evaluation of a citizen's risk of developing dementia later in life," Ruth Frikke-Schmidt, assistant clinical and research professor at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement. "Thus the citizens at the greatest risk of developing the illness are more easily identified than at present."

In the future, the blood test could aid in the development of new drugs and provide an earlier, more focused prevention effort, the researchers said. More than 35 million individuals have dementia worldwide, and a growing aging population could signal the need for more diagnostics tests for the disease.

Meanwhile, diagnostics companies and researchers are focusing on other ways to identify neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's. In September 2014, Cognoptix closed a Series D round worth more than $15 million to support development of eye test for Alzheimer's. The Acton, MA-based company's Sapphire II eye test provides early diagnosis of the disease by measuring amyloid β in the eyes. In October, radiologists in Switzerland and the Netherlands said using an MRI without a contrast agent was enough to detect a biomarker in the brain for Alzheimer's.

- read the release
- here's the study abstract

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