test-for-alzheimerImagine a simple blood or saliva test for Alzheimer’s Disease and determine the likelihood of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Two studies are in the works, and while the samples are small, the studies continue and some say show promise.

A blood test that measures insulin resistance in the brain, a known indicator of AD, may detect the disease as many as ten years prior to onset of symptoms. According to an article in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, researchers compared the blood of AD patients with frozen samples of their blood taken one to ten years before diagnosis, along with non-AD blood samples, and were able to determine which samples were from those living with AD. Senior study author Dr. Ed Goetzel says “This study shows that insulin resistance is major central nervous system metabolic abnormality in AD that contributes to neural cell damage.” Research of a broader sampling is necessary but Dimitrios Kapogiannis, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging, says he’s “very optimistic this work will hold.”

The answer could be at the tip of your tongue. Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada sampled saliva of three groups of cognitive abilities: normal, mild impairment and Alzheimer’s patients. Specific biomarkers were discovered in the groups with mild cognitive impairment and AD. Shraddha Sapkota, a graduate student working on study said “Saliva is easy to collect and transport, which will enhance participation in remote centers and diverse populations.” It would also be a simple and inexpensive test to administer.

Alzheimer’s currently affects more than 5 million Americans and is expected to inflict more than 15 million by 2050.   Diagnosis involves a multi-prong approach of reviewing symptoms and medical history, assessing mental status, and conducting physical and neurological exams but there is not a test that definitively determines who will get AD.

“We have a pressing need to be able to identify people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.

“What we’re realizing is that if we can find a drug or some sort of intervention that can slow down or reverse the disease, we’ll need to use that drug as early as possible,” Isaacson said. “When someone starts having symptoms of memory loss, mild cognitive impairment or dementia due to Alzheimer’s, it’s so much more difficult to treat.”

Researchers involved in these studies seem to agree that starting medications prior to the onset of symptoms is key to helping AD patients preserve cognitive function. These two studies could evolve to making early detection possible.