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New blood test predicts Alzheimer's disease

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Nurse drawing blood
A nurse drew blood from a patient in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2008.
AFP/AFP/Getty Images

A new study from Georgetown University researchers claims that a blood test can predict whether a person will develop Alzheimer's within the next three years. The test works by identifying 10 lipids in the blood that predict the onset of the disease. 

While it's still an early test, the implications of such information could lead to major medical and ethical questions.

More from NPR:

That knowledge can be a good thing, says Dr. Jason Karlawish, a professor of medicine, medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. That's been shown among people who chose to be tested for a gene that increases the risk of Alzheimer's, he says.

"Knowing their risk of developing cognitive impairment is very relevant to making plans around retirement and where they live," he says. "So there is certainly a role for knowing that information..."

But the biggest concern about Alzheimer's testing probably has to do with questions of stigma and identity, Karlawish says. "How will other people interact with you if they learn that you have this information?" he says. "And how will you think about your own brain and your sort of sense of self?"

On The Daily Circuit, we'll discuss what it would be like to get this test result and how it could alter the remaining years of life.