Nine Out of Ten Want to Know Their Brain Disease Risk

Would you take a simple brain health test to learn about your risk of developing a brain disease if you could? According to the global brain health survey, 91% of those questioned would.

This question was asked to more than 27,500 people in the global brain health survey conducted by the Lifebrain project. The survey is led by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in collaboration with the University of Oslo.

The main findings were:

  • 91% of respondents would definitely or probably take a simple test to learn about the risk of developing a brain disease.
  • 86% would do so even if the disease could not be prevented or treated.

 

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Dementia Test on IPad

A dementia diagnosis usually starts with a family member noticing that something isn’t quite right: a partner becoming forgetful, a normally placid parent losing their temper more often. From there, there are doctor’s appointments—memory and behavior tests that haven’t changed in years, brain scans if the money is there, or one of the battery of new blood tests looking for the biomarkers of brain damage. And then: nothing.

Neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s are more feared than cancer and heart disease combined, according to a 2016 survey, and one of the most frightening things about them is how little we still know. There are no cures, and few effective treatments.

So you might question the benefits of a 5-minute test that can assess your risk of getting dementia before you show any symptoms. The Integrated Cognitive Assessment (ICA) test, developed by the British startup Cognetivity Neurosciences, has been granted Food and Drug Administration clearance to be marketed in the United States and is being trialled at several NHS trusts in the UK. But is there any point in taking a test for a disease you can’t do anything about?

The ICA is designed as a “semi-supervisedscreening test, says Cognetivity CEO Sina Habibi. It could form part of an annual health check-up for the over-50s, looking for the earliest signs of neurodegenerative disease before they become apparent in behavior.In the same way you look at blood pressure, you could look at the brain with a cognitive test to see if there’s something malfunctioning,” he says.

An early diagnosis could help people plan ahead and put their affairs in order—but arguably that’s something they should probably be doing anyway. Lifestyle tweaks such as eating less fat, exercising more, or drinking less can also reduce risk, particularly in vascular dementia, which is caused by poor blood supply to the brain and is therefore closely linked to heart health.

The procedure runs on an iPad. A zebra appears onscreen and then disappears, replaced by a railway bridge. There are flashes of beach scenes in black and white, and then a glimpse of an exotic bird, all interspersed with monochrome grids and fuzzy static—a captcha at warp speed. The user’s task is simple: They tap on the right side of the screen whenever they see an animal in one of the pictures, and on the left side when they don’t.

Simple Blood Test Will Diagnose Alzheimer’s Next Year

(from Bill Gates blog) How do you stop Alzheimer’s disease without a simple way to diagnose it? It’s a real chicken and egg problem, as I wrote last year on TGN. Discovering a treatment for Alzheimer’s requires lots of clinical trials for new drugs—but it’s difficult to enroll participants without a way to identify people who have the disease early enough for potential treatments to work.

Right now, the best way to diagnose the disease is through a spinal tap or a brain scan. The problem is that the former is invasive and the latter is expensive. Plus, many patients don’t get these tests until they start showing signs of cognitive decline, which means the disease may already be pretty advanced. It’s hard to overstate how important finding a reliable, affordable, and easy-to-use diagnostic is for stopping Alzheimer’s.

The good news is that we’re finally within reach of that goal thanks to significant breakthroughs over the last couple years. Scientists are pushing forward with new diagnostics that range from simple blood tests to voice analysis straight out of a sci-fi novel. We’re close to reaching the point where we can push past the chicken and egg problem.

That’s why I announced last summer that I was investing in a new fund with the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation called Diagnostics Accelerator, which aims to accelerate the progress already underway. I am grateful to be joined in this effort by my friends Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. They have been tremendous partners who are deeply committed to finding an end to this disease. We’ll continue to work together on finding a new way to diagnose Alzheimer’s, as well as on other efforts, over the coming months. In the meantime, the fund is getting ready to announce the first round of awards.

It wasn’t that long ago that we had no way to test for Alzheimer’s beyond cognitive assessments. The first breakthrough came in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when brain imaging (like a PET scan or MRI) allowed us to see biological changes in the brain of someone with the disease.

Then came the spinal tap in 2006. A team of Swedish scientists—Oskar Hansson, Henrik Zetterberg, and Kaj Blennow—demonstrated that you could predict which patients would develop Alzheimer’s disease by looking at cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid found in the brain and spinal cord). Their discovery gave researchers a more accessible tool to make smarter decisions about who should be in a clinical trial. It wasn’t perfect, though—just ask anyone who’s ever had a spinal tap whether they’re eager to undergo the procedure again.

What does the ideal Alzheimer’s diagnostic look like? It needs to be cheap and easy to administer. It should tell us not only whether you have Alzheimer’s, but how far advanced the disease is. (Your cholesterol test doesn’t just tell you that you have cholesterol, after all—it lets you know how much you have and whether it could be a problem.) Above all, it should be as simple and painless as any of the other routine tests you get during your annual physical. In other words, a blood test would fit the bill.

Enter Randy Bateman, a professor and researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. His team was one of the first to identify changes in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients that remained consistent over many tests. Since he published his research in the summer of 2017, other researchers have released similar findings, and a lot of people are working to perfect the diagnostic (including the Swedish team that discovered the spinal tap test).

There’s a good chance a blood test will start being used to recruit patients into Alzheimer’s drug trials within the next year or two. That’s super exciting, because it means that labs will be able to recruit more patients more quickly, and scientists will be able to figure out whether a drug works in less time. It also means that you’ll one day be able to easily get tested during a routine doctor’s visit.

But what if we could find an even less invasive way to diagnose Alzheimer’s? What if we could use digital technology, not medicine, to identify individuals years before they start to develop mental decline?

Source: https://www.gatesnotes.com/