Scientists find a new way to detect dementia early

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In a new study, researchers have identified a new marker that could support the search for novel preventative and therapeutic treatments for dementia.

The research was conducted by a team in Flinders University and the University of Aberdeen.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a rapid decline in cognition and significant disability in old age, currently affects more than 342,000 Australians.

This number is expected to increase to 400,000 in less than a decade.

The causes of late-onset AD are largely unknown and despite extensive research, there is still no clear consensus on robust biomarkers to predict disease onset and progression and the response to therapies.

In the study, the team examined the role of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), a blood marker linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease, on temporal changes in cognition in an established cohort of human aging.

Unlike other human aging study cohorts, the 1936 Aberdeen Birth Cohort participants also underwent childhood intelligence tests at age 11, a key predictor of intelligence and health in old age.

In the study, ADMA levels measured in the year 2000 (at participants’ age 63 years) were associated with a decline in cognitive performance assessments after four years.

The results suggest that ADMA could be an early indicator of cognitive decline in old age—and possibly dementia.

The team says the results of the new study should be approached with caution and need further extensive investigations.

Nevertheless, if the initial study findings are verified in large-scale testing, the researchers hope the findings could pave the way for population-wide dementia risk stratification and perhaps future development of therapeutic strategies to reduce ADMA levels and/or slow the progression of cognitive decline in old age.

One author of the study is Flinders University Professor Arduino Mangoni.

The study is published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

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