Apparently, the contents of our blood can tell us a lot more than we ever thought possible. Recently, new research has shown that certain chemicals appear in the body when death is relatively close. Even newer research can now tell you if you’re going to develop Alzheimer’s later in life.
On Sunday, scientists reported in the journal “Nature Medicine” that they can identify people in their 70s who will develop Alzheimer’s later on.
For a long time, doctors have been able to predict who will develop the disease. Even before memory loss strikes, doctors can do a spinal tap or MRI to detect early signs. However, both procedures are time consuming, expensive, painful and carry potential risks. This test is a simple blood test which is neither expensive, painful, nor time consuming.
Dr. Howard Federoff, professor of neurology at Georgetown University, and his team developed this test by taking blood samples from 525 people aged 70 and over. They followed the patients over five years to see who developed Alzheimer’s and who didn’t. As it turns out, those who contracted the disease had 10 blood lipids that predicted its onset.
Another positive to the test is that it is over 90 percent accurate, which could be a game changer, according to Federoff. With such accuracy and simplicity, this test is a huge advancement for the medical community.
However, it will only be a “game changer” if scientists can find a cure for the disease. Right now, there is no cure, so this knowledge can only help inform patients of their risk but cannot help them fix the problem. This comes with a host of other issues. As it turns out, this knowledge is powerful; those who know they have the Alzheimer’s gene tend to rate their own memory skills as much worse than those have the gene but are unaware.
This self-diagnosis can also decrease performance on memory tests. Furthermore, there is quite a bit of stigma associated with Alzheimer’s, so one has to consider how family and friends will treat the patient if they know the risk is present. It seems, all in all, that — for now — this test is more of a death sentence than something that will help people.
Of course, knowing you will probably develop Alzheimer’s can help in some ways. It can dictate how you spend or save your money, who you have in charge of your estate, or when and where you retire. As with any disease, surrounding yourself with family and friends whom you trust is extremely important.
Whether or not to know you are at risk for disease or death is an extremely difficult decision to make. Would you want to know?
Photo Credit: VinothChandar