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New blood test to detect Alzheimer's disease developed by Irish researchers

Doctors have said that early diagnosis of the disease is key for improving the quality of life.

Image: Shutterstock/Olena Yakobchuk

RESEARCHERS AT THE Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) have developed a new blood test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages.

Their study has shown that concentration changes of a small molecule in the blood can diagnose the condition at a stage when other symptoms are mild.

Doctors have said that early diagnosis is key for improving the quality of life for patients with the degenerative illness.

Around 20,000 –25,000 people in Ireland have Alzheimer’s. This, according to the RCSI, costs the Irish health system €400 million per year.

This study was carried out by academics and clinicians from Ireland and Spain. It is being presented today by Aidan Kenny, a PhD student at the Department of Physiology and Medical Physics, RCSI.

Dr Tobias Engel, who is the principal investigator on the project, said: “People are living longer today and because of this the incidence of age-related brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s will rise.

“Research into the condition is largely focussed on the development of new therapies, however, new therapies need diagnostic methods which are affordable and minimally invasive and can be used to screen large populations.

Our research carried out over the past four years has identified changes in blood levels of a small molecule called microRNA which is able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at a very early stage and is able to distinguish Alzheimer’s from brain diseases with similar symptoms.

No new therapy for Alzheimer’s has passed clinical trials in 20 years. The RCSI said that, for treatments to be successful, the early stages preceding the full onset of Alzheimer’s need to be targeted.

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