Researchers from Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine (Rowan-Virtua SOM) and Durin Technologies have developed a highly accurate diagnostic blood test with a 97% accuracy rate that can detect pathology for Alzheimer’s disease up to a decade in advance, using 328 blood samples from volunteers.
About 13 years ago, it was discovered that people have thousands of antibodies in their blood that work against themselves called autoantibodies, when it was previously thought that the immune system was only supposed to fight foreign bugs and viruses.
Dr. Robert Nagele, founder and chief scientific officer at Durin Technologies Inc. and a professor of Geriatrics and Gerontology at Rowan-Virtua SOM, has been working on developing these tests since 2010 when the company was first founded.
“So there was a purpose and it turns out that the purpose is to clear the debris that your body makes everyday, just due to normal wear and tear, sort of like putting an oil filter in a car which clears the little debris and little pieces of metal out of your car. And so, once we knew that was true, there’s a whole different part of your immune system that just clears debris,” Dr. Nagele said.
With the new information on the immune system, researchers got the idea that they could be able to detect diseases in the body by looking for high levels of antibodies in a person’s blood then tracing that to the origin of the disease.
“And so this paper that we published tells the world that this test can detect Alzheimeher’s disease as early as 10 years before anyone would notice any symptoms…. If we wait until the symptoms appear, that means the person has had it for 10 years or more. And all that brain devastation might not be reversible or stoppable,” Dr. Nagele said.
With the new blood test, people are given a much more cost effective option for getting a diagnostic as opposed to PET scans which can cost upwards of $6,000.
As of right now while the test is being developed, they are also progressing toward commercial production with the hope of not only having this test detect Alzheimer’s disease, but also expanding to Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Schizophrenia, breast cancer and other diseases that affect the brain’s ability to control muscles and bodily functions.
The study’s lead investigator and Durin’s Director of Research Dr. Cassandra DeMarshall, who graduated with a doctorate in 2016 from Rowan-Virtua SOM and started working in the Durin Technologies lab as a graduate student back in 2010, was in charge of designing the study along with the experimentation, data analysis interpreting the results and writing the research paper.
With the Alzheimer’s diagnostic blood test potentially hitting the market sometime at the end of the year, the team, including DeMarshall, are happy to have progressed this far but are not satisfied with stopping here.
“I think that’s kind of the dream. To do something that you really liked that will also help people so I think that’s pretty awesome. And that’s definitely kind of what keeps me and you know, the rest of our team going every day. It’s the hope that maybe someday we’ll make a difference in someone’s life,” DeMarshall said.