Rowan researcher receives grant to develop Alzheimer’s disease blood test

Rowan researcher receives grant to develop Alzheimer’s disease blood test

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STRATFORD – Thanks to the efforts of a team of Rowan researchers and the support from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), individuals may, one day, be able to monitor their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease through a simple blood test prescribed by their physicians during a routine wellness visit.

Under a three-year, $2,029,394 dollar NIA grant, the team led by Dr. Robert Nagele, a professor of Medicine at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine and the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging, will continue their pioneering work to develop a blood test that can detect early stage Alzheimer’s disease and can accurately track the disease’s progression.  

“We know that early treatment greatly increases the likelihood of a successful outcome in fighting any disease and that Alzheimer’s-related changes begin in the brain at least a decade before symptoms emerge,” Nagele said. “So developing an accurate, relatively noninvasive and inexpensive blood test for Alzheimer’s would be of great benefit to patients afflicted with this disease. In addition, the test would allow earlier enrollment of patients into clinical trials, and would enable physicians to accurately monitor the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in patients who are under treatment.”

Nagele’s earlier published research showed that it is possible to identify the presence of Alzheimer’s years before symptoms arise by detecting the presence of a small number of autoantibodies in the blood. In that ‘proof of concept’ study involving blood samples from 236 individuals, the Nagele team’s blood test had an overall accuracy, sensitivity and specificity rate of 100 percent in identifying subjects whose mild cognitive impairment was actually caused by an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease.   

“This grant moves us closer to the day when we have an early diagnostic test that could ultimately open a pathway to defeating Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Thomas A. Cavalieri, Dean of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. “We are grateful to the NIA for supporting this amazing research at RowanSOM.”

In addition to replicating the earlier findings of detecting and staging the disease, the current study will also determine the ability of the test to detect very early stages of the disease in blood samples from patients who were originally enrolled in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative as healthy controls, but later transitioned to either mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.