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SNU team develops technology to predict Alzheimer’s by blood
  • By Constance Williams
  • Published 2017.10.24 11:11
  • Updated 2017.10.24 11:11
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Korean researchers have developed a new technology that can predict dementia by a series of blood tests before its symptoms appear.

Alzheimer's disease, also referred to simply as Alzheimer's, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and worsens over time. The most common early symptom is short-term memory loss. As the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation including easily getting lost, mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self-care, and behavioral issues.

The cause of this disease has been elusive because its process is associated with plaques and tangles in the brain, making it essential to diagnose Alzheimer’s before the progress of brain cell damage goes further.

Up till now, doctors had to rely on post-mortem examination or Amyloid PET scans to detect amyloid plaques- a protein that when divided improperly, creates a form toxic to neurons in the brain. But these diagnostic tests are prone to misdiagnosis and distressing to the patient and their families for its expensive costs.

Professors Lee Dong-yeong (left) and Mook In-hee

A research team led by Professors Mook In-hee묵인희 and Lee Dong-yeong이동영 of the Seoul National University서울대 developed a technology that predicts the amyloid PET test result to about 90 percent of accuracy, using only a small amount of blood. It will help reduce medical cost and prevent the disease through early screening and prediction, the Ministry of Science and ICT과학기술정보통신부 said.

Amyloid protein in the blood is significantly associated with brain beta-amyloid deposition, but it is degraded by various enzymes present in the blood, resulting in unstable readings. The team has established a system to stabilize beta-amyloid levels in the blood with a mixture of protease inhibitors and phosphatase inhibitors (MPP), which dramatically improves the accuracy of the measurements.

Also, the team uncovered new blood biomarkers (four protein biomarkers and four other blood factors) closely related to brain beta-amyloid deposition, significantly enhancing the accuracy of the test.

"While most dementia diagnostic techniques distinguish between symptomatic and demented patients, the technology developed by our research team is different in that it can predict Alzheimer's disease from a normal, non-symptomatic stage," said Professor Mook.

Professor Lee said, “Recently, there has been a problem in the accuracy of diagnosis of the target group as a cause of the failure of the clinical test of Alzheimer's disease treatment targeting beta-amyloid.”

The new method will be able to select the correct target group and substantially increase the probability of success in clinical trials, he added.

The team has transferred its technology to a venture company specialized in dementia, and is developing diagnostic kits and algorithms that can be applied in actual clinics, the ministry said.


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