A new blood test is reported to be able to identify people in their 70s who are likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in the near future—with greater than 90% accuracy.
The experimental test was reported on by Scientists this weekend in medical publication Nature Medicine, with NPR delving into its implications as well as the ethical questions it raises.
While detecting and predicting Alzheimer’s is not a new effort, contrary to more invasive, painful and expensive tests of the past, this one merely requires a blood analysis.
The test has been tried among people in their 70s to determine which people are likely to develop Alzheimer’s in the next two to three years. The implications are a game changer, depending on whether researchers can slow or stop the disease, Dr. Howard Federoff, professor of neurology at Georgetown University who worked on the development of the test told NPR.
Knowing whether a person will develop Alzheimer’s can have a major impact on planning for the future, but also raises some ethical questions, Dr. Jason Karlawish, professor of medicine, medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania told NPR.
“Knowing their risk of developing cognitive impairment is very relevant to making plans around retirement and where they live,” he said. “So there is certainly a role for knowing that information.”
However, that knowing can also lead to questions of identity and stigma, Dr. Karlawish told NPR. “”How will other people interact with you if they learn that you have this information?” he said. “And how will you think about your own brain and your sort of sense of self?”
Written by Elizabeth Ecker