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Clinical trials for blood test to detect Alzheimer's set to start in Japan

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NAGOYA -- A Japanese research group is set to start clinical trials of a blood test to detect Alzheimer's disease before the end of the month, the group announced on June 22.

The team, including researchers from the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology and precision equipment maker Shimadzu Corp., is looking to have the new testing system ready for the field within three years. It also hopes that, as the tests are inexpensive to run, they will reduce the financial burden on patients.

It has been confirmed that Alzheimer's patients begin to build up amyloid beta proteins in their brains some 20 years before the onset of symptoms. However, until now these could only be detected with positron emission tomography, or PET scans, which cost hundreds of thousands of yen. The new test, meanwhile, looks for the miniscule amounts of amyloid beta that leak into the bloodstream. The method for detecting the protein in the blood was announced in a 2018 paper in the online edition of the British scientific journal Nature.

For the clinical trials, the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology will team up with the Kindai University Faculty of Medicine in western Japan's Osaka Prefecture and the Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Medical Center to administer both the blood test and the PET scan to about 200 patients. The results will then be compared to determine the efficacy of the blood test, and hopefully pave the way to regulatory approval.

"I hope this test will play a role in extending seniors' healthy life expectancies and reduce the costs of dealing with dementia," commented Akinori Nakamura, head of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology's Department of Biomarker Research.

(Japanese original by Shinichiro Kawase, Nagoya News Center)

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