Antigens stimulate the production of antibodies, and the researchers found that the blood reacted with some 1,000 autoantibodies present in the microarrays.
While regular antibodies are produced by the immune system in response to viruses and other pathogens, autoantibodies are produced by the immune system in response to the body's own proteins, said senior study author Robert Nagele, founder of Durin Technologies, Inc., which is designed to commercialize diagnostic tools for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. He is also a professor of medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
But no one is sure what exactly autoantibodies do. One theory is that they are involved with clearing debris, Nagele said.
Researchers used a sophisticated computer analysis to further narrow the test to 10 autoantibodies that, when present, could predict which patients had Alzheimer's and which didn't. They also found that the test predicted who had Alzheimer's and who had Parkinson's -- another neurodegenerative disease -- with 86 percent accuracy.
"We know we can detect Alzheimer's disease in people who have been diagnosed, but the real exciting question is if it's possible for this test [to] detect people when they are pre-symptomatic," Nagele said.
The problem is that even if someone is diagnosed with the brain disease before symptoms appear, there is no cure or treatment to stop its relentless progression. Nagele acknowledged this reality, but has said that scientists are working "feverishly" to develop effective treatments.
"Although there are no treatments now, we are always hopeful one will come soon. If and when such a treatment becomes available, we know early treatment is always better than later," Nagele said. "It's hard to correct damage that already ex
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