Could a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease be on the horizon?

At the Carney Institute for Brain Science, researchers are working to identify biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease that could open a new frontier of understanding and testing.

A new frontier


The blood tests and eye scans that could lead to earlier diagnoses.

Engineers creating retinal scans that can predict neurodegenerative diseases. Psychiatrists employing virtual reality to treat veterans with PTSD. Computer scientists using models of human vision to create better artificial intelligence systems. Over the course of the BrownTogether campaign, the Robert J. & Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science has become a premier destination for multidisciplinary research.

Bringing together top researchers and scholars from around the world and representing myriad disciplines, the Carney Institute has been catalyzing discovery into brain-related disease and disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts more than six million people in the United States alone. Of the top 10 causes of death, it is the only one with no known cure.

Researchers at Brown’s Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, which integrates the expertise within the Carney Institute and the Division of Biology and Medicine, are hoping to change that. Ted Huey, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior and director of the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital, and his team have been honing in on methods for early detection of the disease. One area has been discovering new Alzheimer’s biomarkers—biological signs within the body that can indicate the disease’s presence in a patient.

“A new frontier that is really opening up is blood-based biomarkers,” says Huey. “With these tests, we can now identify biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology through examination of a blood sample. Advancements like these are enhancing our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease in new and powerful ways.”

Most current testing methods are either invasive, like using spinal taps to test cerebrospinal fluid, or cost prohibitive, like PET scans. These newly discovered biomarkers, however, could be analyzed with a simple blood test.

“With more accessible testing options, we’ll have more opportunities for early intervention,” says Diane Lipscombe, Reliance Dhirubhai Ambani Director of the Robert J. & Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science. “These tests are a way for us to identify predictors of disease at the very early stages, even prior to overt disease symptoms. It will take the continued collaborative efforts of researchers, scientists, patients and advocates to identify ways to slow, treat, and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”

Alzheimer’s disease statistics sourced from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.