Rowan doctor searches for definitive Alzheimer’s test

    (Kacso Sandor/

    (Kacso Sandor/

    Detecting Alzheimer’s disease can be tricky, but researchers at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine have been trying to develop a blood test.

    Right now, there is no definitive biomarker test, said Dr. Robert Nagale of Rowan.

    “When you do come into the doctor’s office — and I’m in a geriatrics department — obviously you get a description or a family history,” he said. “And you can also give them some neuropsychological tests.”

    The other clinical tests — a brain scan or a spinal tap — have some flaws and also might be too expensive for patients.

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    Nagale has just wrapped up a study of a blood test he’s spent about three years developing. It aims to identify certain antibodies the body might produce.

    “If you have a disease like Alzheimer’s, that means neurons are dying in your brain every day. And they produce debris, also, that spills over into your blood,” he said. “And these ‘auto-antibodies’ then to clear that debris are made and are present in your blood and we can detect them.”

    Nagale ran the blood test on 50 patients who were already identified as having mild cognitive impairment and early-stage Alzheimer’s as confirmed by a spinal fluid test. His blood tests came back positive in those individuals, but not in about 200 others who did not show signs of the disease.

    The results were published in a small Alzheimer’s Journal.

    “If the study is true, and if it’s reproducible and generalizable to average population, it could be an amazingly helpful test,” said Dr. Carol Lippa, who runs the Memory and Cognitive Disorders Program at Drexel University and wasn’t involved in the study.

    Lippa said the study was relatively small. It would have to be replicated and validated on a larger scale with a broader control group. And that’s difficult to do.

    Nagale, the researcher, said that’s what he’s hoping for next.

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