The test will detect the beta-amyloids that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. Buildup is thought to be a cause of the cognition-sapping illness. Sysmex and Eisai have developed a high-resolution fluorescence microscope that can make out protein structures, along with other equipment needed for testing.
Eisai will confirm the commercial viability of the equipment using blood from patients at various stages. In two years' time, the partners will sell the systems to university hospitals and research institutions for them to field-test the devices in medical environments. Pricing has not been set.
The new technique could spot Alzheimer's in its early stages better than a doctor could using the conventional in-person examination. Early detection is also possible via PET scans or cerebrospinal fluid, but these are expensive and taxing on the patient.
The blood test could also prove a boon for Eisai and other pharmaceutical companies racing to develop potent Alzheimer's treatments. It is believed that such drugs would need to be administered early for maximum efficacy.
The world's 46.8 million people with dementia in 2015 could nearly triple to roughly 132 million in 2050, according to Alzheimer's Disease International.