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Potential blood test for dementia exciting news for doctors, patients, says Manitoba expert

Dr. Ben Albensi.
Dr. Ben Albensi. St. Boniface Hospital

Scientists may be closing in on developing a blood test to screen people for possible signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Researchers at an international conference in Los Angeles revealed results of their studies Monday, saying one test seems to be 88 per cent accurate.

While there’s still work to be done before this becomes a reality, a local expert in the field told Global News that it’s exciting news for dementia researchers and, potentially, for patients.

READ MORE: Health organizations have positive outlook on national dementia strategy

“There are at least six different studies presented (Monday), as I understand it, and they’re all producing very similar results. It’s really exciting material,” said Dr. Ben Albensi, Manitoba Dementia Research Chair.

“Alzheimer’s is not the only type of dementia. There’s other types of dementia. One of the things (the proposed test) does is it allows us to better discriminate – do you have Alzheimer’s, do you have mixed dementia, do you have Lewy body dementia, front temporal lobe dementia, and that sort of thing.

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“That’ll give us more not only predictive qualities, but also allow us to determine more accurately what kind of dementia you have.”

Albensi, also a professor at the University of Manitoba, said while there isn’t a cure for diseases like Alzheimer’s, advance notice via a blood test would give patients a better quality of life.

“The reality of the situation right now is that we don’t have any good drugs to treat Alzheimer’s,” he said.

“However, if we can diagnose the problem earlier, we have better options for outcome and quality of life. We’re all very hopeful that within a few years, we’re going to have better treatment.

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“Having that information sooner than later will help clinical outcome and diagnostic criteria.”

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More than 747,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, according to alzheimers.org. Worldwide, the disease affects more than 44 million people.

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