Blood test may indicate Alzheimer’s risk 16 years earlier

A new study, published in the journal Nature Medicine , revealed that a simple blood test can predict the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease about 16 years before its onset.

Through the exam, it is possible to check the level of a protein called, in English, NLC.

It is present in neurons and, when brain damage begins to occur, it leaks into the cerebrospinal fluid (fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord), then reaches the bloodstream.

As one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s is, precisely, the accumulation of plaques of this protein, the early identification of these rates, even many years before, can be a warning sign, even for other neurodegenerative diseases, which also present concentrations of this protein.

To reach this discovery, the experiment, with more than 400 people, was divided into two types of volunteers: those who already had a case of Alzheimer’s in the family and had a propitious genetics for development, and those who had no observable tendency.

In the results, seen through blood samples and brain images, the concentration of the protein (neurofilament NLC) appeared at high levels in people who had genetics favorable to the disease.

In the other participants, however, with no predisposing factors, the level remained low.

The researchers also associate these high levels not only with Alzheimer’s, but also with brain losses and cognitive decline, as it was observed that the higher the rate of NLC, the greater the damage to memory.

The two sides of early diagnosis

The test is a major advance in medicine, with the potential to be a cheaper and more accessible diagnostic method compared to the others currently used.

However, identifying the presence of the protein does not always mean that the person will have Alzheimer’s in the future. Therefore, detection can generate unnecessary anxiety and worries.

Even so, it serves as a warning for preventive measures to be adopted, such as dietary changes, an adequate sleep routine and the practice of physical activities.

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The next step is to determine how long after the test the mental decline will happen and move towards more effective treatments, as the disease has no cure yet.

Several researches are investing in early detection and treatments for Alzheimer’s and the results can bring hope to the millions of patients who have the disease.