One step closer to a blood test for diagnosing Alzheimer’s

A Melbourne study showing the efficacy of a simple blood test to detect the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s has brought us one step closer to a ‘game-changer’ for dementia diagnostics.

Australian Dementia Network (ADNeT) researchers at The Florey with collaborators at Austin Health, University of Melbourne (ADNeT) and CSIRO, showed 90% accuracy for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s through the ‘pTau217’ blood test which looks for a protein called ‘phosphoTau’ in the blood. This form of tau builds up in the brain as Alzheimer’s develops.

While the tests are not yet commercially available, they are being trialed by ADNeT and Florey researchers with people attending memory specialist clinics in Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart and in selected primary care locations to confirm their value in routine specialist and primary care practice.

This work has led to the installation of the pTau217 test at the Florey that will be available by April to researchers and for clinical trials around Australia.

In the studies, participants from the Australian Imaging Biomarkers and Lifestyle study of Ageing (AIBL) that is led by Florey and ADNeT (led by University of Melbourne) research participants were tested, showing that p217+tau can  accurately detect Alzheimer’s in the brain even before symptoms develop.

It also shows promise for separating persons with either intermediate or advanced stage Alzheimer’s from those at a lower stage, providing prognostic information and informing better selection for clinical trials and the new disease-modifying therapies.

The studies also showed the substantial cost reduction that can be achieved using blood p217+Tau compared to PET scans to select participants for clinical trials even before symptoms develop.

Professor Christopher Rowe
Professor Christopher Rowe

Lead Researcher Professor Christopher Rowe said these studies show that blood pTau217 immunoassays can be done accurately on widely available equipment.

“It is likely to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this year for clinical use and will be the first blood test fully approved for detection of Alzheimer’s disease. We expect that Australian TGA approval that will enable this test to be used in clinical practice will not be far behind.”

The results align with those from a recent Swedish study by the University of Gothenburg which showed that a commercially available blood test could detect the presence of tau proteins with an accuracy more than 90%.

The blood test work that Florey is involved in is funded by the Medical Research Future Fund, NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.