Israeli medical researcher
Israeli medical researcher Israel news photo: Flash 90

Israeli scientists are getting closer to developing a blood test to detect the asymptomatic, early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University say the earliest clues to the disease are found in metabolic processes which can already been seen in the brain.

Shiri Stempler, a PhD candidate at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine has been working with Professors Eytan Ruppin and Lior Wolf at the university's Blavatnik School of Computer Science to develop predictor models that use metabolic information to pinpoint progression of the disease.

The models were 90 percent accurate in predicting the stage of the disease, according to findings published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

In their study, the researchers used data collected from the hippocampus region of the brain, which controls memory and learning – the area which is damaged as Alzheimer's disease progresses.

Based on the number of metabolic genes found in the neurons and surrounding tissue, they built a predictive model which relates abnormalities in these genes to the progression of the disease.

Stempler noted that in Alzheimer's patients, they found that out of almost 1500 genes, the researchers found 50 genes that were most predictive of the disease, and were either over and under expressed – meaning there were either too many or too few.

The study is the first step towards identifying biomarkers that may ensure better detection and analysis of the disease at an early stage, said the scientists, all with a simple blood test.

"We hope that by studying metabolism, and the alterations to metabolism that occur in the very early stages of the disease, we can find new therapeutic strategies,” Stempler said.

Next the researchers will try to identify biomarkers in the blood that are associated with these metabolic changes, which may lead to detection of the disease, and its progression, with an easy, non-invasive blood test.