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Investigators on the Path to Alzheimer’s Detection Test

A team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital are developing a test that can detect tau protein, a calling card for Alzheimer’s disease.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital investigators are working on a test that could either diagnose or predict Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms appear. The investigators approach is in the December issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

Tau proteins have long been a calling card for Alzheimer’s disease. But the issue is tau occurs as a family of related molecules which have subtly different properties. Investigators took this into consideration and built assays to measure the different forms of tau. The team identified a subset of tau proteins which are specifically elevated in Alzheimer’s disease.

The Brigham and Women’s Hospital investigators analyzed five different tests for tau fragments, finding that one, known as the NT1 assay, showed sufficient diagnostic sensitivity (the ability to predict AD cases) and specificity (the ability to exclude controls) to pursue its use as a potential screening tool for Alzheimer's disease.  Researchers said this was confirmed in both sets of patients.

"We've made our data and the tools needed to perform our test widely available because we want other research groups to put this to test," corresponding author Dominic Walsh, PhD, of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at the Brigham, said in a release. "It's important for others to validate our findings so that we can be certain this test will work across different populations."

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