A team of scientists has developed a new blood test that could help physicians make a highly accurate prediction of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in a healthy but older person.

According to the researchers, the test is based on identifying 10 fatty chemicals called lipids in the blood, which can predict if a patient will suffer from the disease, and help develop treatment strategies for various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's, at an earlier stage when therapy would be more effective at slowing or preventing the onset of symptoms.

“Our novel blood test offers the potential to identify people at risk for progressive cognitive decline and can change how patients, their families and treating physicians plan for and manage the disorder,” Howard J. Federoff of the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington said in a statement.

As part of the study, which is due to be published in the April issue of Nature Medicine, the researchers analyzed blood samples from 525 healthy participants aged 70 and older. In the third year of the five-year-long study, the researchers compared blood samples from 53 patients who were already affected by either Alzheimer's disease, or a condition known as amnestic mild cognitive impairment, or aMCI, with samples from 53 patients who were “cognitively normal.”

The scientists found that analyzing the lipid levels could predict with more than 90 percent accuracy if the patients went on to develop aMCI or Alzheimer's disease within three years. The blood test is expected to be ready for use in clinical studies within two years, the researchers said.

There is yet no cure or effective treatment for Alzheimer's, which currently afflicts nearly 35.6 million people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people with Alzheimer's disease will double every 20 years to reach 115.4 million by 2050.

“We consider our results a major step toward the commercialization of a preclinical disease biomarker test that could be useful for large-scale screening to identify at-risk individuals,” Federoff said. “We're designing a clinical trial where we'll use this panel to identify people at high risk for Alzheimer's to test a therapeutic agent that might delay or prevent the emergence of the disease.”