Researchers developing finger prick blood test to detect Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope routine testing will stop or slow course of degenerative disease
Researchers are hoping a simple blood test could detect early signs of ALzheimer's, which would help stop or slow the disease.
Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 1:22 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Arizona has the fastest growth rate for Alzheimer’s in the country. Now, there’s new hope on the horizon for getting answers earlier with a simple finger prick blood test. Blood tests can help doctors diagnose lots of serious health conditions, from diabetes to HIV and cancer. Alzheimer’s could be next.

Dr. Jessica Langbaum has been working in Alzheimer’s research for nearly two decades. “My own grandfather was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment many years ago,” she said.

“There was this notion, ‘Well, why know now, there’s nothing you can do about it?’ We’re trying to change that. There is something you can do about it,” Dr. Langbaum explained. “The field has exploded in the last few years & there really is a sense of optimism for finding effective treatment for people with Alzheimer’s and stopping this disease and slowing it down.” Right now, most patients aren’t diagnosed until after their cognitive decline is already in rapid progression.

Valley neurologist Dr. Todd Levine works with CND Life Sciences in Scottsdale and Honor Health. “So, our best hope is to get patients very early before they’ve lost a lot of nerves. Get them into lifestyle behavior modifications that we know can slow the course of this disease,” he explained. He says all that and new FDA-approved treatments are giving his patients and their families great hope for more meaningful years. “If we can just slow the slope of that progression just a little bit, over 20 years, that has an enormous effect,” said Dr. Levine.

An 11-year study out of Finland shows 40% of Alzheimer's cases are preventable.

“We’re very, very close!” said Dr. Langbaum. She was in Amsterdam for this summer’s annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, where specialists say we are on the brink of rolling out a finger prick blood test to detect biomarkers for early Alzheimer’s. “This is a game changer!” said Dr. Langbaum.

While it’s still one to three years from mainstream availability, she hopes it will eventually be as routine as mammograms and other preventive screenings. “If you get a colonoscopy you should never die of colon cancer. Well, we’re really probably not too far down the road for us in neurodegenerative spaces,” said Dr. Levine.

Dr. Levine lost his grandmother to Alzheimer’s and is eager to change the course of the disease for future generations. “My granddaughter is two and a half, and I think it’s a very reasonable expectation to think that even if we don’t have a cure for Alzheimer’s, we will at least have a way to stop its progression,” he explained.

Dr. Langbaum says people can still be proactive about their health and help further research now. She runs the GeneMatch and prevention registry for Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. “All of these advances we’ve seen in the past few years have come on the shoulders of brave volunteers who have stepped forward and said, ‘I’m going to be a part of finding the solution,’” said Dr. Langbaum.

Arizona’s Family is a proud sponsor of the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s with the Desert Southwest Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Join us on Saturday, November 4th, at Wesley Bolin Plaza in downtown Phoenix. Registration starts at 7:30 a.m. Click here for all the event info and details. You can still donate online if you miss the event.

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