According to the World Health Organization, the number of Alzheimer's patients worldwide is expected to skyrocket from the 35.6 million individuals who lived with it in 2010 to 115.4 million by 2050. Currently, however, all efforts to cure or effectively treat the disease have failed. Experts believe one explanation for this lack of success could be that the window of opportunity for treating Alzheimer's has already closed by the time its symptoms manifest.
Enter the research team led by Howard Federoff, MD, PhD, executive dean at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. In cognitively healthy adults age 70 and older, Federoff's team measured the levels of 10 lipids found in the blood to identify, with 90% accuracy, which study group participants would develop cognitive impairment over a 2-3 year period. If this 10-lipid test is validated in larger studies, it could help researchers to develop treatments for Alzheimer's that halt or slow the disease before it even begins. A blood test would also be easier to perform than current Alzheimer's tests that use brain imaging or hard-to-collect cerebrospinal fluid, meaning that the Federoff team's test could be used for population-wide Alzheimer's screening.
Amrita Cheema, PhD, one of the main investigators on Federoff's team, will give an in-depth lecture on the test's significance, the science behind it, and the research techniques used to develop it in the July 28 AACC session, "Lipidomics: A Powerful Approach to Identify Pre-clinical Memory Impairment in Older Adults." Cheema is an associate professor and co-director of the Proteomics and Metabolomics Shared Resource at Georgetown University.
"This discovery is a potentially enormous breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer's," said AACC CEO Janet B. Kreizman. "If research aimed at a cure for Alzheimer's is to move forward, it is crucial that Alzheimer's clinical trials find a way to recruit patients who are still asymptomatic, since they are the ones most likely to respond to treatment. The Federoff team's test could be the answer to this problem, and it also demonstrates how laboratory medicine helps patients achieve better health -- by not only ensuring that patients receive timely and appropriate treatment, but also by enabling researchers to develop effective treatments in the first place."
More discoveries you might want to know about