Richard Hodes

Researchers are no closer to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but a path to quicker and easier diagnosis seems to be near. Among the discoveries and innovations unveiled at this week’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Los Angeles, a number of blood tests stand out for their potential to cut the need for costly and intrusive diagnostics.

Currently, people who want a diagnosis may undergo spinal fluid sampling and brain imaging along with mental health exams. A simple blood test would be a game-changer, experts say. In fact, some of the tests presented at the conference are at a point where they will soon be used in federally funded studies, said Richard Hodes, M.D., of the National Institute on Aging, in an Associated Press report. “In the past year we’ve seen a dramatic acceleration in progress,” he told the AP. “This has happened at a pace that is far faster than any of us would have expected.”

In other conference news:

  • Two new studies have found that vision, hearing and other sensory impairments are associated with an increased risk of dementia in older adults. This is especially true when more than one impairment is present, the researchers report.
  • There may be reasons beyond greater longevity that women make up two-thirds of the Alzheimer’s population. Researchers have found sex differences in the progression and risk of Alzheimer’s disease. These include newly identified sex-specific risk genes and contrasting presentation of Alzheimer’s biology in the brain.