They are developing a test to detect Alzheimer’s disease neurodegeneration in the blood

They are developing a test to detect Alzheimer's disease neurodegeneration in the blood

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and it is expected that by 2030 it will already affect 50 million people worldwide. It is, however, a problem that can be difficult to detect in its early stages, i.e. precisely at the moment when one can most delay its progression, which is why the search for methods of effective detection is a priority in the field of biomedical research. .

A more accessible procedure

For this purpose, a group of scientists led by a researcher from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (USA) has developed a test that allows the detection of a new neurodegeneration marker caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

As published by the scientific community Brain, the biomarker in question has been named ‘brain-derived tau’, or BD-tau, and provides better results than diagnostic blood tests used in the clinic to detect neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease. Its effectiveness, in fact, is comparable to tests that use samples of cerebrospinal fluid, which are much more complicated to obtain.


The test aims to improve current procedures, which require the use of neuroimaging techniques: Expensive procedures that many patients do not have access to in the United States.

Differentiate between pathologies

Methods were already known to detect the total number of tau proteins (a type of protein that acquires characteristic damage in certain neurodegenerative diseases) in the blood, but this technique has caused problems when distinguishing between different pathologies such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias .

For this reason, one of the great advantages of this test is that it is able to specifically detect tau proteins that come from the brain, ignoring those that occur elsewhere of the organism.


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To achieve this, these authors developed a special antibody it binds selectively to BD-tau. This system was validated on more than 600 samples taken from patients from five different cohorts, including some whose diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was confirmed after death and others who simply presented symptoms indicative of Alzheimer’s.

Comparable to more invasive methods

Tests showed that detectable BD-tau levels in the blood of patients using this method matched tau levels in the cerebrospinal fluidand who succeeded in distinguishing Alzheimer’s disease from other neurodegenerative diseases.

Not only that, but BD-tau levels were also correlated with the severity of amyloid plaques and tau tangles (the characteristic damage to the protein) seen in patient autopsies.


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The research team now plans to perform large-scale clinical validations of BD-tau in blood in many research groups, including some who recruit patients from diverse racial and ethnic groups. For this method to be generalizable, it will also be necessary to include the elderly without biological proof of Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, the test can become a clinical reality.

The references

Fernando Gonzalez-Ortiz, Michael Turton, Przemys┼éaw R Kac, Denis Smirnov, Enrico Premi, Roberta Ghidoni, Luisa Benussi, Valentina Cantoni, Claudia Saraceno, Jasmine Rivolta, Nicholas J Ashton, Barbara Borroni, Douglas Galasko, Peter Harrison, Henrik Zetterberg, Kaj Blennow, Thomas K Karikari. Brain-derived tau: a new blood biomarker for Alzheimer’s-like neurodegeneration Brain (2022), DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awac407

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