Lies Thijssen, neurochemistry PhD candidate at Amsterdam UMC, investigated a new blood test that can measure the tau protein. According to Thijssen: “This tau blood test helps to determine whether a patient is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or frontotemporal dementia (FTD). With this information we can give patients suitable advice, and hopefully treat them in a more targeted way in the future.”

Screening tests for AD

It is important that there are widely available screening tests for AD. When the diagnosis can be done at an early stage, treatment can also start earlier. Current diagnosis is done by memory tasks, supported by brain scans and analyzing brain fluid. Making a brain scan is expensive and is some cases also stressful to do. While for the analysis of brain fluid an invasive lumbar puncture is necessary. Researchers at the Alzheimer Centrum Amsterdam are working on tests that are simple and noninvasive, like the blood test of Thijssen. Thijssen: “Because blood samples can be taken more often, it is better way to monitor the disease and the effect of treatments in clinical studies. That will provide us with a lot of information about the effect of possible medication.”


Thijssen did not only measured the tau protein in the blood samples, but also illustrated the amount of tau protein with brain scans. She explains: “We saw that with increased tau protein in the brains of patients, the amount of tau was also increased in the blood. In 96% of the cases the blood tests correspond with the presence of tau visible on the brain scan.” This result makes the new test extra reliable. Currently this test is not yet available for patients and is only used for scientific research.

Thijssen collaborates with professor Charlotte Teunissen, who previously made the news with a blood test for amyloid, the 'other' Alzheimer's protein.

Read the article in Nature Medicine 'Diagnostic value of plasma phosphorylated tau181 in Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration'.

Source: Alzheimer Centrum Amsterdam