We’ve been researching Alzheimer’s all wrong

alzheimer's associated bethesda fountain awareness lou-ellen barkan blue hair
Lou-Ellen Barkan, president of NYC’s chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, and her granddaughter Jillian Foster raise awareness at an event at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park last month.
Credit: D Dipasupil/Getty Images

Over the past 15 years, more than 100 potential treatments for Alzheimer’s have been tested and failed. A scientist who led a new study that identified 10 protein markers that can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s says it’s because the drugs were being tried on patients whose condition was too far advanced.

“Alzheimer’s begins to affect the brain many years before patients are diagnosed (and) many of our drug trials fail because by the time patients are given the drugs the brain has already been too severely affected,” said Simon Lovestone of Oxford University, who led this work from King’s College London.

The new study, in which British scientists identified a set of 10 proteins in the blood that can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s, could lead to a test for the incurable disease. Initially, this predictive test would be used to select patients for clinical trials before they even develop symptoms. 

“A simple blood test could help us identify patients at a much earlier stage to take part in new trials and hopefully develop treatments,” he said.

The brain-wasting disease is the most common form of dementia and affects 44 million people worldwide, according to the advocacy group Alzheimer’s Disease International.



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