This biomarker can predict your risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Researchers say they have discovered that a biomarker detected in the blood could indicate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- Deaths related to Alzheimer’s disease have increased by more than 30% between 1999 and 2019.
- There is no cure for the disease.
Researchers from the National University of Ireland at Galway and Boston University say they have discovered a biomarker found in the blood that could help identify those most at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease years before symptoms do not begin to manifest themselves.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
For this study, the lead author of the study Emer McGrathPhD, an associate professor in the College of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway, told Healthline the team analyzed blood samples from 52 healthy adults, which were then examined by specialized PET brain scanners.
Adults participated in Framingham Heart Studya decades-long study originally initiated by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the United States
The blood samples were taken from people who had no symptoms of cognitive decline and who had been tested at a typical level of cognition at the time.
Specialized PET scans were performed an average of seven years after blood work. These special tests can detect the amount of an abnormal protein called
This protein is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researcher’s analysis revealed that high levels of a biomarker called P-tau181 were associated with greater accumulation of
According to the researchers, further analysis revealed that this biomarker performed better than two others in predicting future signs of ß-amyloid on brain scans.
“Preliminary data has already shown a strong association between P-tau181 and the risk of progression to dementia in people with mild cognitive impairment,” McGrath said. “Furthermore, studies of patients with dementia and autopsy series to date have shown higher levels of P-tau181 in people with dementia compared to those without.”
She pointed out that this study adds to existing evidence by demonstrating a significant association between the presence of P-tau181 and the risk of abnormal amyloid protein formation in the brain.
McGrath pointed out that identifying the disease at a preclinical stage before the onset of memory problems means having the ability to alter the course of the disease. There is currently no cure for the condition, but there are a few treatments that can relieve symptoms.
“We need valid, accessible and practical biomarkers for dementia, and especially preclinical dementia, so that we can accurately and reliably predict people at high risk of developing dementia,” said McGrath.
McGrath explained that his findings could potentially improve the way we detect and treat disease.
“This biomarker could be used to identify people at risk of developing dementia before the onset of any cognitive symptoms such as memory problems or behavioral changes,” she said. “For example, it could potentially [be] used as a screening blood test in primary care practices down the line.
However, McGrath warned that more studies are needed to identify appropriate cutoff values for blood tests so that people at high risk of developing dementia can be distinguished from those at low risk.
She added that P-tau181 could also be used to identify participants in clinical trials of upcoming new therapies.
“Most risks of developing AD [Alzheimer’s disease] may be attributed to genetics, especially first-generation relatives of patients diagnosed with early dementia are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Ishwara SankaraMD, Neurointensivist at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth and Texas Health Physicians Group
According to Sankara, there are risk factors that can be modified to reduce our risk.
“Modifiable risk factors may include cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and dyslipidemia, particularly if developed in midlife (those under 50) have also been linked at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.
Sankara noted that patients with a history of head trauma or even physical and mental inactivity are also at higher risk of developing AD.
Sankara said that although there are no disease-modifying cures for Alzheimer’s disease yet, experts are hopeful that experimental drugs may prove effective in the future.
“There are research drugs in development that show promise,” he continued. “Unfortunately, none of the drugs tested in clinical trials to date have been shown to alter the course of the disease.”
Training and being active have been watch to delay the development or progression of AD.
“Regular exercise along with healthy eating habits can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.
“Controlling modifiable risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol, with smoking cessation has been shown to help delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease. “.
Researchers have discovered a marker in the blood of certain people that could predict who will develop Alzheimer’s disease up to seven years before symptoms appear.
Experts say the discovery could allow doctors to alter the course of the disease or even stop it.
They also say there are lifestyle changes we can make to slow disease progression or significantly reduce the risk of developing AD.