A new blood test can detect whether someone will go on to develop Alzheimer’s years before symptoms of the disease surface, scientists in Seattle have said.

Researchers from the University of Washington have found that big clumps of amyloid beta proteins – otherwise known as oligomers – are a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

During the study, the team of scientists have created a new blood test that can measure amyloid beta oligomers.

Entitled soluble oligomer binding assay (SOBA), the new test can identify oligomers in the blood of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and in those who are likely to develop the memory loss condition in the future.

First author Professor Valerie Daggett said: “What clinicians and researchers have wanted is a reliable diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s disease – and not just an assay that confirms a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, but one that can also detect signs of the disease before cognitive impairment happens.

“That’s important for individuals’ health and for all the research into how toxic oligomers of amyloid beta go on and cause the damage that they do. What we show here is that SOBA may be the basis of such a test.”

A total of 310 participants underwent examination and had the SOBA blood test during the study.

Before the test, all of the participants had experienced no symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or any other cognitive conditions.

More than 50 of the participants went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, the findings have reported.

According to the results, all but one of these people had toxic oligomers in their blood at the beginning of the study.

Professor Daggett said: “We are finding that many human diseases are associated with the accumulation of toxic oligomers that form these alpha sheet structures.

“Not just Alzheimer’s, but also Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes and more. SOBA is picking up that unique alpha sheet structure, so we hope that this method can help in diagnosing and studying many other ‘protein misfolding’ diseases.

She added: “We believe that SOBA could aid in identifying individuals at risk or incubating the disease, as well as serve as a readout of therapeutic efficacy to aid in development of early treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.”

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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