The VITAL Study

Assessing at-home blood testing to help detect Alzheimer’s and related diseases in older adults.



Our study ‘Establishing the validity and acceptability of remote finger prick blood sampling techniques for detection of Alzheimer-related and health-related blood biomarkers in older adults’, will be conducted through the nationwide PROTECT-UK cohort of older adults. This will help us to examine whether the biomarkers align closely with changes in key brain functions such as memory, problem-solving and attention. 

What are we doing?

Early diagnosis of dementia is challenging and the most accurate techniques are too expensive to use widely in clinical practice. There have been rapid advances in the development of blood biomarkers which can be used to detect early changes and indicate likely risk of a developing condition such as Alzheimer’s Disease. If used widely in the community this would allow us to identify these at-risk individuals, diagnose and treat them earlier. A new finger-prick test, would allow people to complete a blood test at home. This raises the opportunity for large-scale, affordable blood testing and a step-change in the way we detect and diagnose brain health conditions in ageing. 

The VITAL study aims to: 

  • Determine whether blood sampled by a finger-prick test provides the same biomarker data as a traditional venous blood sample 
  • Determine whether blood biomarkers sampled using the finger-prick test correlate with cognitive function (memory, problem-solving, attention) in older adults 
  • Determine the acceptability of the finger-prick test for older adults

How are we doing it?

Our study will be delivered through the PROTECT-UK cohort of older adults in two phases: 

  1. 50 participants will complete a fingerprick test and provide a venous blood sample. These samples will be analysed for correlation of the biomarkers between the samples. 
  2. 1000 participants will be recruited from the PROTECT-UK study. They will receive a finger-prick test in the post, complete it at home and send it back in the post. They will also complete a computerised cognitive test system which collects highly accurate data on brain function (memory, problem-solving, attention etc). The data will be analysed for correlation between the biomarkers and early cognitive changes.  
  3. Participants will also complete a survey to feedback their experience and opinions of the finger-prick test.

What happens next?

Once the data from both phases of the study has been analysed we will publish the findings in a scientific journal and ensure they are widely communicated. If successful, we anticipate that this work could lead to widespread adoption of at-home testing for Alzheimer’s Disease and other brain health ageing conditions. 

BRC colleagues

Dr Mary O’Leary, University of Exeter

Find out more

Get in touch with the PROTECT research team

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