By Sarah Knapton
A blood test has been developed to predict if someone will develop Alzheimer’s within a year, raising hopes that the disease could become preventable.
After a decade of research, scientists at Oxford University and King’s College London are confident they have found 10 proteins which show the disease is imminent.
Clinical trials will start on people who have not yet developed Alzheimer’s to find out which drugs halt its onset.
The blood test, which could be available in as little as two years, was described as a “major step forward” by Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and by charities which said it could revolutionise research into a cure.
“Although we are making drugs they are all failing. But if we could treat people earlier it may be that the drugs are effective,” said Simon Lovestone, professor of translational neuroscience at Oxford. “Alzheimer’s begins to affect the brain many years before patients are diagnosed with the disease. If we could treat the disease in that phase we would in effect have a preventative strategy.”
Clinical trials into so-called “wonder drugs” such as BACE inhibitors and anti-amyloid agents, have shown little improvement for sufferers. Scientists believe that by the time Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, an irreversible “cascade” of symptoms has already occurred.
About 600,000 people in Britain suffer from Alzheimer’s and hundreds of thousands have mild cognitive impairment. Last month, David Cameron pledged to fast-track dementia research.
The new test, which examines 10 proteins in the blood, can predict with 87 per cent ccuracy whether someone suffering memory problems will develop Alzheimer’s within a year.