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New biomarkers for assessing Alzheimers dementia risk and early diagnosis

Researchers from the University of Texas have analyzed biomarkers to predict future risk of dementia. Their findings are published in journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. 

Dementia is a rising tidal wave of devastation for families and society. Age is the biggest risk factor. Alzheimer’s disease, which is the leading cause of dementia, is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and more than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s. That figure is expected to triple by 2050.

Researchers analyzed metabolites in blood samples taken from 22,623 individuals, including 995 who went on to develop dementia. The participants were enrolled in eight research cohorts in five countries. They found that higher blood concentrations of branched-chain amino acids were associated with lower risk of future dementia. Another molecule, creatinine, and two very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)specific lipoprotein lipid subclasses also were associated with lower risk of dementia. On the other hand, one high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and one VLDL lipoprotein subclass were associated with increased dementia risk.

These findings will broaden the search for drug targets in dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, vascular disease, and other subtypes, said Dr. Seshadri, professor of neurology at UT Health San Antonio. “It is now recognized that we need to look beyond the traditionally studied amyloid and tau pathways and understand the entire spectrum of pathology involved in persons who present with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias,” Dr. Seshadri said. “It is exciting to find new biomarkers that can help us identify persons who are at the highest risk of dementia.”

The study was in persons of European ancestry and was carried out in collaboration with researchers in Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Estonia. Dr. Seshadri is eager to replicate it in South Texas. “The Glenn Biggs Institute at UT Health San Antonio will expand these studies to include the diverse racial and ethnic groups who live in South Texas,” she said.

Researchers feel that more studies are needed to clarify whether the branched-chain amino acids and other molecules play a causal role in the dementia disease process or are merely early markers of the disease.

Citation: Tynkkynen, Juho, Vincent Chouraki, Sven J. Van Der Lee, Jussi Hernesniemi, Qiong Yang, Shuo Li, Alexa Beiser, Martin G. Larson, Katri Sääksjärvi, Martin J. Shipley, Archana Singh-Manoux, Robert E. Gerszten, Thomas J. Wang, Aki S. Havulinna, Peter Würtz, Krista Fischer, Ayse Demirkan, M. Arfan Ikram, Najaf Amin, Terho Lehtimäki, Mika Kähönen, Markus Perola, Andres Metspalu, Antti J. Kangas, Pasi Soininen, Mika Ala-Korpela, Ramachandran S. Vasan, Mika Kivimäki, Cornelia M. Van Duijn, Sudha Seshadri, and Veikko Salomaa. “Association of branched-chain amino acids and other circulating metabolites with risk of incident dementia and Alzheimers disease: A prospective study in eight cohorts.” Alzheimers & Dementia, 2018. doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2018.01.003.

Adapted from press release by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

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