Health and wellness

Hong Kong scientists hope to create cheaper, more effective method for detecting Alzheimer’s

A study by the Chinese University of Hong Kong will use 100 people to test new methods of detecting Alzheimer’s disease, which if successful will be cheaper and more accessible

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 6:40pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 10:59pm

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) is developing a new and cheaper screening method to detect Alzheimer’s disease through blood and eye imaging that could be more accessible for elderly sufferers in Hong Kong.

Scientists behind the study are recruiting 100 volunteers to test the screening system that could potentially replace the traditional brain scan.

“The earlier we can detect, the earlier we can intervene when the disease is still mild”, said Professor Vincent Chung Tong Mok, head of division of neurology at the Faculty of Medicine CUHK.

“We hope to slow down or even stop the progression, and reduce the suffering from patients and caregivers.”

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Alzheimer’s disease is a common type of dementia – a broad category of brain diseases which cause a gradual decrease in brain function, and the fourth major cause of death in the city. Over half of dementia cases in Hong Kong are linked to Alzheimer’s.

One in 10 people aged 70 or above, and one in three over 85, suffer from dementia. But overall only one in 10 has been diagnosed or found medical help.

The new Screening for Early Alzheimer’s Disease Study, SEEDS, led by CUHK’s Faculty of Medicine, will test five new methods for spotting the disease early on 100 Chinese people aged 50 to 80.

The study will test three different brain functions, from normal to mild damage and dementia, and each participant will have five medical tests. These include a blood test, and taking high-resolution pictures of the inside of the eye to assess its health.

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The process will take two years, before results are compared to see how effective the method is in detecting the disease.

One patient has already begun testing, while the research team recruits the remaining 99.

The researchers were not yet sure about the cost of the new test, but they believed it would be much cheaper and more accessible than a brain scan when it is available at public hospitals.

“Medical research is very crucial in the fight again disease and this is why I support my father joining the SEEDS study”, said Wong You-nam, son of the first subject. “I hope the public can have a higher awareness and better understanding of dementia, so as to prevent from it.”

Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease included forgetfulness, loss of balance and slow speech.

Currently people must test for the disease through a private PET scan, which uses radiation to show how well an organ is working. This costs an estimated HK$6,000 to HK$13,000, according to the Hong Kong Hospital Authority.