Blood tests for neurological disorders

July 14, 2010 by  

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The hunt for biomarkers in the blood that can be used to screen for neurological disorders such as schizophrenia and dementia seems to be making headway. Two groups of researchers report about promising tests using biomarkers. Let us take a look at their discoveries.

Predicting Alzheimer’s

Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London report that they may have develop an early test for Alzheimer’s disease – a test that can predict its onset up to ten years before the symptoms appear.

The biomarker used for the test is a protein called clusterin which surrounds the brain plaque characteristics of the disease. High clusterin levels were found to be closely linked to brain shrinkage and rapid memory loss. Clusterin is easily and reliably detectable in the blood. As a biomarker for Alzheimer’s, clusterin seems very promising.

According to lead author Dr Madhav Thambisetty:

“We are very enthusiastic about these results because they identify a strong signal in blood from clusterin protein that appears to be relevant to both pathology and symptoms in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, adding further evidence to the role of clusterin in Alzheimer’s disease… A primary goal in Alzheimer’s research is to develop an inexpensive, easily administered test to accurately detect and track the progression of this devastating disease.  Identifying clusterin as a blood biomarker that may be relevant to both the pathology and symptoms of the disease may bring us closer to this goal.”

Detecting schizophrenia

Researchers from Cambridge University report about another potential blood test – this time a test for diagnosing schizophrenia. Currently schizophrenia is diagnosed by psychiatrists based on patient interviews, a method which is not necessarily accurate, sensitive and objective.

The researchers discovered a set of 51 biomarkers with linked to schizophrenia. These biomarkers are detectable in a blood sample and can be used as a diagnostic tool complementary to the patient interview-based method. The test is called VeriPsych

According to Professor Sabine Bahn, Director of the Cambridge Centre for Neuropsychiatric Research, who developed VeriPsych together with his collaborators at Psynova Neurotech and Rules-Based Medicine:

“Schizophrenia is a complicated and challenging disease, yet current diagnostic approaches continue to be based on patient interviews and a subjective assessment of clinical symptoms. We expect VeriPsych to be used as an aid to this current process, and we hope it will provide the psychiatrist with additional confidence in their evaluation, as well as speed up the process.”

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