A BRITISH medical team could be on the brink of a major breakthrough to devise a blood test for Alzheimer's disease.
Revolutionary research has pinpointed a group of proteins in the blood that could hold the key to early diagnosis of the degenerative brain disorder.
Their findings, which still have to be put through major testing programmes, provide one of the biggest advances in tackling a disease that costs Britain 17 billion a year in treatment and care.
Dementia is at epidemic proportions cases in the UK are expected to exceed one million within 20 years and the enduring problem has been to identify sufferers and target treatments before it is too late.
The National Audit Office yesterday condemned the health service's treatment of dementia, claiming that 50 per cent of sufferers never receive a diagnosis and that Britain is in the bottom third of nations in dealing with the condition.
"The frustration for so many people has been that by the time you are diagnosed with Alzheimer's, it is effectively too late to do much about it," said Dr Madhav Thambisetty, a key member of the team based at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College Hospital.
He added: "The challenge has been to find what may cause Alzheimer's and to see if we can identify it before it sets in and therefore give patients an opportunity to have effective treatment. Our holy grail is to devise a simple blood test that can eventually be administered at a GP's surgery. We feel we are very close to that although we have to be cautious because the research needs more testing." The crucial advance comes in the week the Alzheimer's Society, which has funded the three -ear research programme, clashed in court with the Government's clinical agency Nice over funding for drugs for sufferers. The agency claimed the drugs were not cost- effective despite evidence from thousands of sufferers that they slowed the decline into dementia.
Professor Simon Lovestone, who directs the research team, said the new findings could open the gateway to early treatment and accelerate new drug development as clinical trials will become swifter and more accurate. …