Hamilton woman hopes new test will tell if she'll get Alzheimer's

Hamilton, Ont., resident Sharon Roszel hopes a new test developed by researchers at Georgetown University will tell her if Alzheimer's disease is in her future.
Sharon Roszel's father died ten years ago after suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Her mother was diagnosed soon after her father's death and has lived with the disease for nine years. (Melanie Ferrier/CBC)

A Hamilton woman is looking forward to the day when an simple blood test could tell her whether her future will include Alzheimer’s disease.

Sharon Roszel’s father died 10 years ago after suffering from Alzheimer's. Her mother was diagnosed soon after her father’s death and has been living with the disease for nine years.

“You lose a little bit every day,” Roszel told the CBC’s Anna Maria Tremonti on Wednesday. “It’s true when they say that it’s a very long goodbye, because every day something new happens.”

Roszel’s doctors won’t say whether she is at risk of Alzheimer's, but a new test developed in the United States could answer her questions.

Researchers from Georgetown University say their blood test can predict whether a healthy person will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's within three years. According to the University, the predictions are 90 per cent accurate.

The test has received some criticism, but Roszel says she would be willing to give it a try.

“Why wouldn’t you want to know?” she says. “You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. So, if I knew...that I was going to get the disease, I would want to be doing things now and enjoying my life.”

The study is published in the April issue of Nature Medicine. “Our novel blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk for progressive cognitive decline and can change how patients, their families and treating physicians plan for and manage the disorder,” said Dr. Howard J. Federoff, executive vice president of health sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center.

Researchers studied, over a five-year period, 525 people aged 70 or over who had no symptoms of Alzheimer's, analyzing the levels of 10 lipids found in the subjects' blood.

They found the pattern of metabolites from the fat-like compounds changed in the 74 people in the study who went on to develop some kind of memory loss or Alzheimer’s.

The people who later developed dementia started out with low levels of the lipids, compared to the other participants.

Federhoff said "we consider our results a major step toward the commercialization of a preclinical disease biomarker test that could be useful for large-scale screening to identify at-risk individuals."

According to the World Health Organization, the disease is expected to double every 20 years worldwide to 115.4 million affected by 2050.


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