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Checking the Blood for Alzheimer's

A blood test for Alzheimer's disease is now available in much of the US, The Scientist reports.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alzheimer's disease affects about 5 million Americans. But diagnosing the condition can be tricky, as Colin Masters from Australia's Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health tells The Scientist that symptom-based diagnoses have an accuracy of only about 70 percent.

The new test from C2N Diagnostics measures the ratio of two versions of the amyloid-β protein — Aβ42 and Aβ40 — and determines which isoform of apolipoprotein E is present in the blood, The Scientist says. It adds that data from the company indicates that, among people with disease symptoms, individuals with positive test results also had a positive amyloid PET scan 92 percent of the time.

"I think patients really like the idea of a blood test," Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis's Suzanne Schindler, who was involved in early testing of the assay, tells The Scientist. "And I think that it really has the potential to allow us to do a lot more testing than we have done in the past."