At-home Alzheimer’s diagnosis through the prick of a finger might be available in the future

Studies have recently demonstrated improved accuracy in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s through blood tests, including a new at-home finger prick blood test. Presented for the first time at the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® (AAIC®) 2023, researchers shared promising results that, in the future, may aid patients, caregivers and primary care providers in diagnosing Alzheimer’s through reliable, less invasive and more cost-effective blood tests.

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By Alzheimer's Prevention Bulletin

According to research presented at the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® (AAIC®) 2023, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in the future, blood tests could improve diagnostic accuracy and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Offering a potentially less expensive and less invasive option, blood tests are already being implemented in Alzheimer’s research studies to better understand their ability to detect and track changes associated with the disease.

“These findings are timely and important with the recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals of Alzheimer’s treatments targeting amyloid-beta where confirmation of amyloid buildup and biomarker monitoring are required to receive treatment,” said Maria C. Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer, at the conference.

Could a finger prick blood sample detect Alzheimer’s biomarkers?

At-home finger prick blood tests are already used in monitoring for other conditions such as glucose monitoring for diabetes and INR tests for patients on blood thinners to measure how long it takes for blood to clot. Could a similar test help detect Alzheimer's at home or in a physician’s office?

A pilot study conducted at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden indicates the potential of collecting small amounts of blood and using it to test for Alzheimer’s biomarkers. Hanna Huber, Ph.D. and her colleagues collected blood by both vein and finger prick from memory clinic patients from the ACE Alzheimer Center in Barcelona, Spain. The blood samples were transferred onto dry blood spot cards and shipped overnight, without temperature control or cooling, to Huber and her team in Sweden. The dried blood samples were then extracted from the cards, and biomarkers were measured. In all finger prick samples, all biomarkers were detectable.

“Currently, use of Alzheimer’s blood tests is limited by the need to visit a clinic, administration by trained personnel, and strict time-limited and temperature-dependent delivery and storage procedures,” said Huber when presenting the data at AAIC. “A method that allows blood collection at home and that is simple enough to be performed independently, or by caregivers, would increase accessibility of these tests. It would result in improved early diagnosis and better monitoring of patients considered ‘at risk’ or those who are receiving approved therapies.”

When and where can I get my Alzheimer’s blood test?

Having a reliable blood test for Alzheimer’s will take some time. The studies presented at AAIC demonstrate that blood tests have significant potential for improving diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. For now, these blood tests are used primarily in research to establish that they are reliable, valid, and easily interpretable by patients and medical providers. Many researchers and clinicians believe that the blood tests, and perhaps even the finger prick blood test, will become more widely available in the not so distant future. Stay tuned for future issues of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Bulletin for updates on this topic.