Blood biomarkers could identify people at high risk of dementia before they develop symptoms


Researchers from NUI Galway and Boston University have found a blood biomarker that could help identify people with the earliest signs of dementia, even before symptoms appear

The researchers measured blood levels of P-tau181, a marker of neurodegeneration, in 52 cognitively healthy adults from the US-based Framingham Heart Study, who later performed specialized PET brain scans.

The blood samples were taken from people who had no cognitive symptoms and who had normal cognitive tests at the time of the blood test, according to the study published in today Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

There are 64,000 people with dementia in Ireland and the number of people with the disease will increase to over 150,000 by 2045.

The analysis found that increased levels of P-tau181 in the blood on specific brain scans were associated with greater accumulation of ß-amyloid, an abnormal protein in Alzheimer’s disease. These scans were performed an average of seven years after the blood test.

Further analysis showed that the biomarker P-tau181 outperformed two other biomarkers in predicting signs of ß-amyloid on brain scans.

dr Emer McGrath, Associate Professor in the College of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway and Consultant Neurologist at the Saolta University Health Care Group, was lead author of the study.

“The results of this study are very promising – P-tau181 has the potential to help us identify individuals at high risk of dementia at a very early stage of the disease, before they develop memory difficulties or behavioral changes,” said Prof. McGrath.

The research team said the identification of a biomarker also points to the potential for a population screening program.

Prof McGrath said: “This study was conducted among people living in the community and reflects those visiting GP surgeries. A blood test that measures P-tau181 levels could potentially be used as a population-level screening tool to predict the risk of dementia in people in midlife or even earlier.

“This research also has important potential implications related to clinical trials. Blood levels of P-tau181 could be used to identify suitable participants for further research, including clinical trials of new therapies for dementia. We could use this biomarker to identify those who are at high risk of developing dementia but are still at a very early stage of the disease when there is still a chance to prevent the disease from progressing.”

The research was funded by a Clinician Scientist Award from the Health Research Board in Ireland and by a Clinician Scientist Fellowship from the Alzheimer’s Association, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the US . Blood biomarkers could identify people at high risk of dementia before they develop symptoms

Fry Electronics Team

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