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American scientists announce dementia test advance – Alzheimer’s Society comment

Scientists in America have today published research in which they say they have developed blood tests that can predict dementia risk and recommend them for use in selecting participants for dementia prevention trials.

The research paper, published in JAMA Neurology, said: “The findings suggest that plasma total tau levels may improve the prediction of future dementia, are associated with dementia endophenotypes, and may be used as a biomarker for risk stratification in dementia prevention trials.”

Dr James Pickett, head of research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “For the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and their families, the long wait for new treatment has been agonising, so any new hope for a breakthrough is welcome.

“It’s exciting that these researchers were able to measure levels of a protein – tau – in blood and predict who would be diagnosed with dementia 4-8 years later. But the approach isn’t accurate enough yet to be used in the clinic to diagnose dementia.

“The test could be useful for identifying people at higher risk of dementia at the very earliest stages of the condition, who could then take part in clinical trials. We know that the sooner dementia is identified, the better the chance of finding treatments to slow down or even stop its progress,

“This study represents a potentially important advance in the study of dementia, as it builds on previous research from others and our own researchers which suggests that blood tests could be used to test for dementia risk. The group they looked at, though large, where mainly white, so we’d need to look at how the test works in diverse populations before it can be useful for clinical trials.”

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Tamara Birch