Minn. family cheers step toward Alzheimer's blood test - KMSP-TV

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Minn. family cheers step toward Alzheimer's blood test

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Researchers at a British university have identified a set of 10 proteins that may predict the onset of Alzheimer's, and they're heralding the discovery as a big step toward creating a simple blood test that could forecast the likelihood of developing the disease. Now, a Minnesota family with several loved ones struggling with Alzheimer's says they have hope that the research could help people prepare and lead to better treatment.

The results of the study, which were published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, are sign of hope for drug trial coordinators. In the past 15 years, more than 100 experimental drugs have failed in trials because the patients’ brains are already too deteriorated by Alzheimer’s or dementia. A predictive test could help with the selection of patients for clinical trials of experimental drugs before it’s too late.

Experts still want to see the study’s results mirrored in a larger population before any Alzheimer’s blood tests are developer for wider use, and the Ferris family is looking forward to those results as well. Lindsay Ferris Martin's paternal grandfather, Fred, and her great uncle, Ray, both had Alzheimer's -- and three days before her wedding, she learned her maternal grandmother also had the disease.

"Their personalities were larger than life," she reflected. "To watch disease affect memory, so they don't know who you are ... is really, really difficult."

To honor her family, she created Team Ferris to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer's research and prevention through walks -- even panhandling. Yet, her biggest fear is not knowing who in her family may be next. That's why she's so excited by what the new research could make possible.

"In their particular study, 87 percent of the time, they were able to predict whether someone would go from having memory loss of mild cognitive impairment to convert to Alzheimer's disease," Debbie Richard, director of the Alzheimer's Association of Minnesota, told Fox 9 News.

The research team at King's College in London, working with private sector researchers from biotech company Proteome Sciences, tested blood samples from 1,148 people. A total of 476 patients had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, 220 with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and 452 had no signs of dementia. The population was analyzed for 26 proteins previously found to be linked with Alzheimer's, and further testing boiled it down to 10 proteins that could predict with 87 percent accuracy whether people with MCI would develop Alzheimer's disease within a year.

Although the study is in its preliminary stages, Richman said she -- and others like the Ferris family -- have been waiting for a test like this to come out so that people can begin to prepare their affairs before the worst of the symptoms set in.

"It's not a death sentence. It doesn't mean your life stops tomorrow," Richman said. "You have to think about things differently and have to plan, but that early detection will allow someone to do that much more effectively."

With a 3-year-old daughter of her own, Lindsay Ferris Martin will continue her fight against a disease that has already impacted three of her loved ones -- and she says the test could become a crucial tool while scientists continue to search for a cure.

"For myself and what my family has gone through, I think knowledge is really powerful in making sure everything is in place that needs to be in place," she said.

Anyone who wants to help the Ferris family continue their fight against Alzheimer's can donate online. They hope to raise $4,000 by Sept. 27, which is the date the Ferris family will walk against the disease starting at 8 a.m. at Target Field.

FACEBOOK: 5th Annual Team Save Ferris Walk to End Alzheimer's

"I want to imagine that it stops with this generation and it doesn't go any further," Lindsay Ferris Martin said.

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