Blood test might reveal dementia

Research we're watching

Published: June, 2020

Could a single blood test one day enable doctors to diagnose Alzheimer's disease? Researchers writing in the March 2 issue of Nature Medicine say they've made advances in this area. The blood test they developed measures the concentration of pTau181 — a form of the tau protein associated with brain changes in Alzheimer's disease — in the body's blood plasma. They used the test on samples collected from more than 400 people who were part of an ongoing -memory study.

The researchers found that the blood test was able to accurately detect which patients had Alzheimer's, which were healthy, and which had a different type of dementia caused by a neurodegenerative disease. Today, doctors typically diagnose Alzheimer's using a series of tests designed to rule out other causes, but the process is time-consuming and costly. The researchers are now aiming to refine the test further, in hopes that it will someday make it easier to detect Alzheimer's at an early stage, when the disease may be easier to treat.

Image: Kristin Pahl/Getty Images

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.