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Blood protein test offers ‘reliable’ Alzheimer’s warning 15 years early

Large study further boosts fast-evolving efforts to predict and prevent neurogenerative diseases. Photo: Pexels

(Michael Peel/ Financial Times) — Blood proteins can predict dementia up to 15 years before clinical diagnosis, scientists using machine learning techniques have found, boosting research into how to prevent the debilitating condition that afflicts more than 55mn people worldwide.

The analysis, the largest of its kind to date, bolsters the findings of smaller studies suggesting certain proteins are “biomarkers” of susceptibility to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, says the paper by scientists from China’s Fudan university and the UK’s Warwick university. Effective screening methods for early identification of dementia risk would enable the use of drugs that slow or even reverse its onset, greatly decreasing the costs for health systems.

“We can quite reliably predict dementia 15 years before the diagnosis of the disease,” said Jianfeng Feng, the paper’s lead author and a computer science department professor at the University of Warwick. “We expect that our result will open up an avenue to develop new approaches to slow down the progression of the disease.” (…)