Scientists Develop Simple Blood Test for Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease

An international research team led by HKUST has developed a simple but robust blood test from Chinese patient data for early detection and screening of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) for the first time, with an accuracy level of over 96%.

HKUST's Vice-President (Research and Development) Prof. Nancy IP (Middle) and her research team members - including doctoral student Mr. Jason JIANG Yuanbing (second left) who is the first author of this research paper.
HKUST’s Vice-President (Research and Development) Prof. Nancy IP (Middle) and her research team members – including doctoral student Mr. Jason JIANG Yuanbing (second left) who is the first author of this research paper.

Currently, doctors mainly rely on cognitive tests to diagnose a person with AD. Besides clinical assessment, brain imaging and lumbar puncture are the two most commonly used medical procedures to detect changes in the brain caused by AD. However, these methods are expensive, invasive, and frequently unavailable in many countries.

Now, a team led by Prof. Nancy IP, Vice-President for Research and Development at HKUST, has identified 19 out of the 429 plasma proteins associated with AD to form a biomarker panel representative of an “AD signature” in the blood. Based on this panel, the team has developed a scoring system that distinguishes AD patients from healthy people with more than 96% accuracy. This system can also differentiate among the early, intermediate, and late stages of AD, and can be used to monitor the progression of the disease over time. These exciting findings have led to the development of a high-performance, blood-based test for AD, and may also pave the way to novel therapeutic treatments for the disease.

The research team identified 19 plasma hub proteins (indicated as yellow dots in the figure) in AD patients, which are irregular compared to healthy people.
The research team identified 19 plasma hub proteins (indicated as yellow dots in the figure) in AD patients, which are irregular compared to healthy people.

“With the advancement of ultrasensitive blood-based protein detection technology, we have developed a simple, noninvasive, and accurate diagnostic solution for AD, which will greatly facilitate population-scale screening and staging of the disease,” said Prof. Nancy Ip, Morningside Professor of Life Science and the Director of the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at HKUST.


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