Using Blood Protein Markers for Brain Health Screening

By | August 6, 2013

Can a simple blood test be possible to screen for Alzheimer’s disease and other brain conditions? New research discussed at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) last month suggests that reliable, low cost blood serum analysis for brain biomarkers is a possibility within the next decade or so.

Blood tests are an attractive screening option because virtually every clinic and primary care/general practice office can perform the procedure and send the sample to a local lab for analysis.

Here’s where it gets interesting: the lab analysis will be based on a fairly new concept called proteomics, which in this case is the study of multiple proteins found in every human blood sample. One blood protein in particular, apolipoprotein J (Apo J), seems to be a particularly useful biomarker that can signal increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

However, there is still some heavy lifting ahead to validate and standardize readings for blood serum proteomics in regards to brain health screenings.

Take a look at this sample blood test result page:

The column on the far right lists “reference ranges”, or what are considered normal levels, based on age range and gender. These blood panel reference ranges were established and validated through a 20 year medical research effort that began in the 1960s.

Reference ranges do not exist yet for apolipoprotein levels in the blood. In practical terms, this means a validated, reliable blood test for Alzheimer’s disease is still several years away. But continued research will bring us closer to a standardized brain health screening test, in addition to cognitive screening options and (expensive) brain imaging tests.