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USF awarded $3.2M toward development of Alzheimer's disease blood tests

USF Health leaders say a new study will "contribute to research working toward developing simple blood tests to improve existing methods" for detecting Alzheimer's.

TAMPA, Fla. — The University of South Florida recently received $3.2 million from the National Institute on Aging to investigate if Alzheimer's disease can be detected through simple blood tests early on.

The university's new funding joins with the five-year, $44.4 million grant awarded last year which tests "whether computerized braining [sic] training can reduce dementia risk in older adults," USF Health leaders explain in a news release.

USF is conducting the Preventing Alzheimer's with Cognitive Training (PACT) study which is a trial designed to test the effectiveness of computer-based training to help against MCI and dementias. Anyone who is a part of the PACT study can also enroll in the study that investigates whether a simple blood test can detect dementia, according to university leaders.

Along with the university, the study will work with National Centralized Repository for Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias to analyze the blood samples collected from the participants.

“We need another 2000 healthy older adults to volunteer for the PACT study. We are very grateful to the 1800 volunteers from Tampa Bay who have already joined our fight against Alzheimer’s disease by enrolling in PACT,” principal investigator Jerri Edwards said in a statement. 

“Participants will now not only be contributing to our work on how to possibly prevent dementia, but also advancing efforts to develop blood tests for early detection of the disease.”

As of now, PET scans and cerebrospinal fluid samples are needed for diagnosing dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. But USF Health leaders say the new study will "contribute to research working toward developing simple blood tests to improve existing methods."

The PACT study was launched in 2021 and continues to recruit participants.

"The USF PACT study concentrates on the effectiveness of computerized programs, or brain games, for preventing dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease," the university explains in the release. "These computerized training exercises are designed to potentially enhance mental quickness and visual attention."

At the end of the trial, the scientists examine the blood samples of willing participants. They will then determine which specific blood-based biomarkers predict Alzheimer’s disease along with the severity of the disease and responsiveness to treatment.

Edwards says this study is crucial because this is not a problem that is going away anytime soon.

"As we live longer, and as the baby boomers become of age, the prevalence of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease is going to increase rapidly unless we find ways to prevent it," Edwards explained.

For more information on the PACT study, click here.

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