I have blogged previously about tests and imaging procedures relating to the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (see: Early Detection of Alzheimer's Disease: Mutations of Three Genes Studied; Using Altered Metabolic Pathways to Diagnose Alzheimers Disease; Alzheimer's Amyloid Tangle Theory Will Be Tested with Merck Drug Trial). I don't think that any test or imaging procedure to date has proven to be foolproof. However, a recent article raised the important question of whether one would want to even know the result if such a test were available (see: New Test Claims It Can Tell If You Will Develop Alzheimer's... But Do You Want To Know?). Below is an excerpt from the article:
The dichotomy of those who want to know and those who do not is separated by a deep chasm in beliefs, and could forever alter the way individuals, families and wealth managers prepare for disease, as well as how insurers and care providers pay for and provide care. While genetic tests are presently able to determine about 4,000 diseases and disorders, the breakthrough of predicting Alzheimer’s disease could vastly change the behaviors and costs to society, actually bending the cost curve health experts so often talk about as necessary for economic stability....In January, Amarantus reported positive top-line results of its LymPro Test...for Alzheimer’s disease. The Company also entered into an exclusive option agreement with Georgetown University (GU) to commercialize sets of blood-based biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease....But how will individuals react? How about the care provider and insurance markets? When there is presently no cure, it is expected that individuals and families will be torn on the decision to test. In contrast, it seems inevitable that employers, health officials and insurers will want to know the future demands, needs and composition of their populations....While LymPro is not ready for the shelves of CVS or Walgreen ’s, it may not be long before in clinic and in home testing is available to consumers. Without a cure or highly effective symptomatic treatments to go hand-in-hand with the blood test, the risk and reward of such a test will certainly take a toll on individuals, families, health care markets and communities.
Here's a brief summary of the LymPro test mentioned in this excerpt copied from the Amarantus web page:
The Lymphocyte Proliferation Test (LymPro Test) is a diagnostic blood test that measures the ability of peripheral blood lymphocytes to withstand an external stimulation inducing them to enter the cell cycle. It is hypothesized that certain diseases are the result of a compromised cellular machinery that leads to abhorrent cell cycle re-entry by neurons.The inventive step for LymPro that makes a unique asset involves using peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) as a surrogate for neuronal cell function, suggesting a common immune-based relationship between PBLs and neurons in the brain.
There is no single answer as to whether one would want to know if he or she was destined to develop Alzheimer's disease with no effective treatment for the condition. Some individuals with a strong predisposition to planning might benefit from such information, particularly if the test would offer some time prediction for the onset of the disease. On the other hand, such bad news could destroy another person psychologically. What is clear, however, is that the precise identification of those who have, or will develop the disease, is a requirement for the development of clinical trials for drugs that ameliorate or cure the disease. In fact, the availability of such clinical trials could provide an incentive for individuals to seek the test because only those who test positively would be admitted as a subject to them.