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Early Steps Toward an Alzheimer's Blood Test
Date:1/7/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- A blood test that screens for antibodies, a protein produced by the immune system, may one day be used to detect Alzheimer's and other diseases, new research suggests.

Though the research is still in its infancy, being able to detect Alzheimer's via antibodies would be a simpler and less invasive method of diagnosing the disease, researchers said.

But the study's lead author stressed that the true benefits of such a test for Alzheimer's patients won't really arise until scientists develop effective treatments against the disease.

"It's unclear whether people would want to know a couple of years ahead of time they are going to get Alzheimer's if they can't do anything about it," said Thomas Kodadek, a professor of chemistry and cancer biology at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla. "But I can say with some certainty that we will never get a good therapy for Alzheimer's without early diagnosis."

The study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is published in the Jan. 7 issue of Cell.

Typically, in developing blood tests for diseases, researchers have searched for antigens -- that is, proteins from a virus, bacteria or other disease process such as cancer or neurological conditions like Alzheimer's -- that set off an immune response.

Only after identifying the antigen would researchers then search for antibodies to that antigen, or signs that the immune system had picked up on the problem and mounted a response.

But antigens can be difficult to find, Kodadek explained.

"In Alzheimer's, or in a disease such as cancer, it's not at all obvious what the initiating event is," he said. "We just don't know what are those first weirdly modified proteins that are unique to the disease process that the immune system 'sees.'"

The new research went about things differently. Rather tha
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