In Brief

Alzheimer's: test breakthrough raises hopes

Scientists develop new test that can predict onset of Alzheimer's with 87% accuracy

British scientists have developed a new test for Alzheimer's that can predict which people with failing memories will go on to develop the disease.

The new test can predict whether a patient will develop the condition within the next year with an accuracy of 87 per cent. It is expected to cost £100-£300 to administer and could be made available within two years, The Guardian reports.

The research was hailed as a "major step forward" in the treatment of Alzheimer's.

The findings, which were published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, will be used in trials of new medications.

Treatment of the condition, which was named after the German scientist Alois Alzheimer, who identified it over a century ago, have traditionally had little success. Of the trials conducted between 2002 and 2012 to prevent or reverse the effects of the disease, 99.6 per cent have failed, the BBC reports.

Tests to identify the condition earlier have long been a priority of Alzheimer's research. 

Professor Simon Lovestone, who led the research at Oxford University said that early identification was the main goal of his team's investigation: "We want to be able to identify people to enter clinical trials earlier than they currently do and that's really what we've been aiming at."

Lovestone clarified that his team's findings would help with identification of the illness rather than alleviation of its symptoms, but said that the test may still have a place in GP's offices in the future.

"As long as there is no treatment one can question the value of a test, but people come to the clinic because they want to know what's happening to them and I currently can't tell them."

The director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, Doctor Eric Karran, described the research as a "technical tour de force".

Karran said that the new research could be a step towards making Alzheimer's a preventable disease in the future. "I think it does, but not immediately," he said. "It's not a simple journey. We all wish it was."

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