Your God-made brain is complex! Its 100 billion nerve cells control every memory, thought, feeling, and movement you have . . . or ever will have. Doctors have studied brain diseases for centuries. Recent research has focused on screenings for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. New reports reveal tests that could be as much as 88% accurate.
In 1906, Dr. Alois Alzheimer treated a female patient named Auguste Deter. The patient experienced memory loss, fear, and confusion. After her death, an autopsy showed shrinkage of the gray matter near nerve cells in her brain. Was there a way to detect this disease before it progressed?
About 50 million people worldwide have dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common form. There is no cure, and modern medicines ease symptoms only for a time.
Doctors are looking for an Alzheimer’s test—something for use during routine checkups. Early detection could reveal—or rule out—dementia. Verbal assessments of patient thinking skills can be inaccurate and biased. Brain scans and spinal fluid tests can be very expensive or impractical.
“We need something quicker and dirtier,” says Maria Carrillo, Chief Science Officer for the Alzheimer’s Association. “It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Doctors believe blood could provide “quicker-dirtier” options. Last year, Japanese researchers used a new blood test to measure a protein in the brain. The protein is a recognized marker for Alzheimer’s. The Japanese test returned accurate results at a rate of 88%. Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis picked up those procedures and expanded on them. Their blood test, combined with brain scans, accurately identified Alzheimer’s almost 94% of the time.
Another test examines a protein that signals nerve damage, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis.
“Everyone’s finding the same thing . . . the results are remarkably similar across countries, across techniques,” says Dr. Randall Bateman of Washington University School of Medicine. He helped develop another blood test that measures the Alzheimer’s protein.
Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, believes blood tests will soon help select and monitor people for government health studies. He estimates a reliable screening test could be as close as three years away.
The progress is encouraging. But what good will that do without a cure?
A 2018 poll found that most Americans want to know if they carry a gene tied to a disease—even if it’s not curable. “What people want most of all is a diagnosis,” says Jonathan Schott of University College London. “What we don’t like is not knowing what’s going on.” How wonderful to know that the God who made the brain knows all.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. — Jeremiah 29:11