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New Alzheimer's blood test providing hope for East Texas woman

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TYLER (CNN/KYTX) -  Recent studies find that Alzheimer's may be the nation's third-most deadly killer. Now, researchers have discovered a new blood test that predicts if a person will develop this debilitating illness at an earlier age.  

It is estimated that as many as 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer's disease.  The Alzheimer's Foundation of America also predicts that number will rise over the next decade because people are living longer. As of now, there is no cure.

One East Texas women is struggling with this disease in her family today.

Joseph Curry Main is in his late 80s now. His daughter-in-law, Brenda Main, remembers him before he developed Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

"Oh, he's a very intelligent man."

But, she says she noticed some changes around the year 2000.

"Forgetfulness- not just forgetting where things are, but what they're for, and not remembering he bought something or where it came from."

Then, she says, his wife passed away.

"Now, he's pretty much not there. He does not know who I am. It's really difficult because, I mean, two years ago he was planting potatoes in the garden, which is what he loved to do. So, it's very hard. It's very hard."
 
The development of a new blood test is giving her hope for a brighter future in Alzheimer's care though. Researchers at Georgetown University say they can predict with greater than 90% accuracy if a healthy person will develop Alzheimer's disease within the next three years. It is the first blood based test for diagnosing Alzheimer's in its earlier stages. 

"I could see definitely value in it." says Brenda.

Not only would people be able to know if they will develop the illness, the test could be used to design new treatments for the disease.  

"The test enables the identification of high risk people. You could then do the research to ask do we now have a new therapy that could arise and delay symptom onset." says Dr. Howard Federoff of Georgetown University.

"It would be nice to know for my husband, my kids, his grandkids. We have one grandchildren ourselves that would be his great-grandbaby. So, you just don't know how genetic it is." says Brenda.

For now, she says she's developed a certain sense of peace with her family's situation.

"Because it's the other end of life. It's part of life. I think, for us, it's having peace of mind that we did all we could do."
 
The blood test identifies 10 lipids, or fats, in the blood that could predict the disease. It could be ready for use in clinical trials in a few years.  
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