Scientists discover blood protein that can indicate Alzheimer’s risk: Alzheimer’s Risk is among top ten causes of death in US. British scientists have identified protein in blood that may help predict risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that affects 5.3 million Americans of which almost 5.1 million people are above the age of 65, according the Alzheimer’s Association. Almost two thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women.
Deaths associated with Alzheimer’s have increased 71% between 2000-2013 while those caused by the usual number one cause, fatal-heart disease, have deceased by 14%.
Researchers from King’s College London have identified a blood protein, which can indicate the development of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) years before symptoms start to show.
MCI is a disorder that has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
The study was the largest of it kind; it measured as many as 1000 proteins in the blood of 200 healthy individuals. The study participants consisted of 100 sets of identical twins.
A laboratory test employed is known as SOMAscan, which is a protein biomarker tool. It measures a large quantity of proteins at the same time.
Using the computer run test, the researchers checked each person’s cognitive ability and compared results with measured levels of each protein in their blood. It was found that a protein called MAPKAPK5 was lower in individuals whose cognitive ability decreased over a ten-year period.
Currently Alzheimer’s is not treatable and trials that do exist for it are full of problems because they need patients affected with Alzheimer’s, who are hard to identify until the disease has manifested.
Dr. Claire Stevens, co-author of the study and a Geriatrician and Senior Lecturer in Twin Research at King’s, added, “We’re very optimistic that our research has the potential to benefit lives of those who currently don’t have symptoms of Alzheimer’s but are at risk of developing the disease.”
Previous studies have used laboratory diagnostic tools such as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) to look for visible signs of Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms start manifesting but these scans were not only costly but also consumed too much time.
Lead author Dr. Steve Kiddle, Biostatistics Research Fellow at the MRC Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London, said, “Although we are still searching for an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, what we do know is that prevention of the disease is likely to be more effective than trying to reverse it.
“The next step will be to confirm whether our initial finding is specific for Alzheimer’s disease, as this could lead to the development of a reliable blood test which would help clinicians identify suitable people for prevention trials,” he concluded.
Identification of blood markers such as MAPKAPK5 may indicate the future risk of a person for Alzheimer’s. Scientists hope that this could lead to a better design of prevention trials. The research was published in Translational Psychiatry. It was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Wellcome Trust, and the National Institute of Health Research Centre for Mental Health.