A groundbreaking Alzheimer’s disease testing method is available at 30 medical facilities in Taiwan shortly after it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the EU, a doctor at National Taiwan University (NTU) Hospital said on Friday.
The diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s is difficult and largely relies on family members who might notice changes in a person’s ability to memorize things, habits and cognition, said Chiu Ming-chang (邱銘章), a neurologist at the hospital.
The diagnostic process involves several examination methods including brain magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography and cerebrospinal fluid tests, and requires a lot of experience on the part of the doctor, Chia said.
Many older people are reluctant to undergo invasive diagnostic procedures and scans that involve radiation, Chiu said, adding that this adds to the difficulty.
Therefore, the hospital in cooperation with NTU’s electro-optical engineering program developed a minimally invasive method to diagnose the disease based on changes in blood protein levels caused by Alzheimer’s, he said, adding that it has an accuracy rate of up to 85 percent.
The method, called an immuno-magnetic reduction (IMR) test, requires only one 6ml blood sample, Chiu said.
From a certain age, the risk that a person develops the disease increases by half every five years, he said, adding that a 90-year-old man has a 26.9 percent risk of dementia, while a woman of that age has a 45.8 percent risk.
For people with cases of Alzheimer’s in their immediate family, the risk is three times higher than for the general population, Chiu said, adding that those with hypertension, hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia are also at increased risk.
Billions of US dollars have been spent on Alzheimer’s research, but no mediacation to slow or stop the progression of the disease has been developed, Chiu said.
An early diagnosis of the disease could help establish long-term studies of individual patients, Chiu said, adding that IMR testing could also serve as an index for clinical drug trials.
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