A simple blood test can find signs of brain damage in people who are on the path to getting Alzheimer's disease—even before they show signs of confusion and memory loss, according to a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Germany.
The findings, published today in the journal Nature Medicine, may quickly and inexpensively identify brain damage in people with not just Alzheimer's disease but other neurodegenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury or stroke.
"This is something that would be easy to incorporate into a screening test in a neurology clinic," said Brian Gordon, Ph.D., an assistant professor of radiology at Washington University's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology and an author on the study. "We validated it in people with Alzheimer's disease because we know their brains undergo lots of neurodegeneration, but this marker isn't specific for Alzheimer's. High levels could be a sign of many different neurological diseases and injuries."
The test finds neurofilament light chain, a kind of protein. When brain neurons are damaged or dying, the protein leaks out into the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord and from there, into the bloodstream.
Finding high levels of the protein in a person's cerebrospinal fluid has been shown to provide strong evidence that some of their brain cells have been damaged. But getting cerebrospinal fluid requires a spinal tap, which many people are reluctant to get.
To get more details about the study, please click here.
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