Simple blood test may help predict risk of Alzheimer's
9 August 2009
Scientists at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have
discovered a way to measure the amount of amyloid beta that is being
absorbed by immune cells in the blood. Amyloid beta forms the plaques in
the brain that are considered the hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. If
the immune system isn't adequately clearing amyloid beta, it may
indicate Alzheimer's risk, according to the researchers.
MP Biomedicals LLC, a global life sciences and diagnostics company
dedicated to Alzheimer's disease research, has received an exclusive,
worldwide license to commercialize the UCLA technology and create a
diagnostic blood test for public use to screen for Alzheimer's risk.
"Early diagnosis is the cornerstone of preventive approaches to
Alzheimer's disease," said Dr Milan Fiala, lead author of the UCLA study
and a researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the
Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. "We are pleased
that the process we've identified using immune cells to help predict
Alzheimer's risk will be further developed by MP Biomedicals."
"We are excited by the opportunity to forward the UCLA science in
creating a cost-effective blood test to screen for Alzheimer's risk that
could be used in any hospital or lab," said Milan Panic, CEO of MP
Dr Miodrag Micic, vice president of research and development for MP
Biomedicals, noted that other blood tests for Alzheimer's diagnosis
measure factors such as inflammation and infection, which are also
present in other diseases like atherosclerosis and may complicate the
interpretation of results.
The recently published study on the process identified by UCLA, which
uses the "innate" immune system present at birth, appeared in the May
issue of the Journal of Neuroimmunology.
In the study, researchers took blood samples and isolated monocytes,
which from birth act as the immune system's janitors, travelling through
the brain and body and gobbling up waste products — including amyloid
beta. The monocytes were incubated overnight with amyloid beta, which
was labeled with a fluorescent marker. Using a common laboratory method
known as flow cytometry, researchers then measured the amount of amyloid
beta ingested by the immune cells by assessing how much fluorescence was
being emitted from each monocyte cell.
The 18 Alzheimer's disease patients in the study showed the least
uptake of amyloid beta; the healthy control group, which consisted of 14
university professors, demonstrated the highest uptake. The method was
able to distinguish with adequate sensitivity and specificity the
Alzheimer's disease patients.
The results were found to be positive in 94% of the Alzheimer's
patients and negative in 100% of the university professor control group.
In addition, the results were found to be positive in 60% of study
participants who suffered from mild cognitive impairment, a condition
that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's.
"Patients and control subjects were also tracked over time to see if
their immune response changed," Fiala said. For example, an Alzheimer's
disease patient over time showed declining results, while a university
professor continued to demonstrate a high uptake of amyloid beta.
Micic noted that the new method could be a flag for further testing
and interventions. "Similar to screening patients for heart disease risk
by a cholesterol test, a positive result for Alzheimer's risk in some
patients may suggest further interventions and advanced diagnostics,
such as a brain PET scan and neurocognitive testing," he said
The study was funded in part by MP Biomedicals LLC.
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