These tests can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease earlier and more accurately than current methods
A £5m project has been launched to introduce new blood tests in the National Health Service (NHS) that can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.
The blood tests could be available on the NHS within five years and they can diagnose the disease earlier and more accurately than current methods, experts have said.
Alzheimer’s Research UK, the Alzheimer’s Society and the National Institute of Health and Care Research have jointly launched the project.
Susan Kohlhaas, Executive Director of Research and Partnerships at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said that the NHS doesn’t possess the “required levels of diagnostic infrastructure” to cope with the “growing demand” for dementia diagnosis.
“Low-cost tools like blood tests that are non-invasive and simpler to administer than current gold standard methods are the answer to this,” she added.
Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society, said implementing a blood test for dementia into UK healthcare systems would be “a truly game-changing win in the fight against this devastating disease.”
Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s to become easier
According to Kohlhaas, diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is currently done through brain imaging or lumbar punctures that can be “invasive and come with uncomfortable side effects.”
Lumbar puncture is a process of diagnosis in which a sample of spinal fluid is drawn from the lower back.
The 2023 Dementia Attitudes Monitor survey also revealed that blood tests for diagnosing dementia would be much more acceptable to the public than the existing tests.
More than half of UK adults would be reluctant to undergo a lumbar puncture, but over 90 per cent of respondents would be willing to take a blood test, the survey found.
Several blood tests for Alzheimer’s are currently in the research stages. Some of these look for specific proteins, such as amyloid and tau, that occur before dementia symptoms appear.
However, so far, no test has been clinically validated in the UK, or made available to patients in the NHS.
Funds for the new project have been raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and it will involve working with world-class researchers, Alzheimer’s Research UK stated.